Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard thrived in Game 2 of the Blazers’ first round series against the Oklahoma City Thunder, putting up 29 points, four rebounds and six assists. Besides his offensive contribution, his defense against Russell Westbrook was praised. Lillard talked about his defensive mentality in the series following Game 2 (via Blazers reporter Casey Holdahl):
“I don’t really have a choice but to embrace it,” said Lillard of defending the 2017 Most Valuable Player. “That team is going to go as far as him and Paul George. We could try to score points and do all that stuff but if we don’t defend them and they come out there believing and they’re coming after us, we don’t have much of a chance. Our minds are made up that we’re going to take that challenge and our season is on the line, so that’s probably how it looks different than it might look any other time.”
Lillard also touched on how his approach to defense has changed over the years:
“Early in my career, I was criticized a lot about my defense. A lot of times young players in the NBA struggle because you don’t know the NBA lingo, you don’t know the terms, you don’t know what to expect,” said Lillard. “I think the last few seasons I’ve been much better defensively. It hasn’t been just one game or nothing like that, I’ve been taking the challenge and I’ve been much smarter about it.”
The Blazers and Thunder face off for Game 3 in Oklahoma City on Friday at 6:30 p.m. Pacific. You can read the rest of Holdahl’s article here.