If the Portland Trail Blazers advance farther in the 2019 NBA Playoffs than they did in 2018 or 2017 (both first-round exits), they’ll owe a debt gratitude to All-Star point guard Damian Lillard. According to Justin Verrier of The Ringer, Lillard’s famous scoring prowess will be only one of the items on the “thank you” list. The guard’s swagger and determination, evidenced multiple ways already during Round 1, may be responsible for turning a team happy to make the playoffs into a candidate for post-season success.
Verrier cites Lillard’s Game 2 confrontation with Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams—a large and typically-aggressive player—as a prime example of the team’s new attitude. After showing video of the play, Verrier offers:
Watch Lillard after the refs break up the small circle of rubbernecking teammates. “We’re just talking,” he appears to say to one official. He’s just talking, sure, but in the same way Vinnie from Queens does with his arm wrapped around the head of someone who’s late with the vig.
Verrier also suggests that Lillard has targeted rival point guard Russell Westbrook in the series:
...as the back-and-forth between him and Westbrook has gotten more intense, Lillard has made it a personal mission to show up his counterpart, just like Jrue Holiday did to him.
This is only the barest tip of Verrier’s [slightly NSFW] paean to Lillard and the superstar’s display of toughness. The article will be a must-read if you like Lillard or want to feel good about the new-look Trail Blazers.