Following the Game 4 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder 111-98, Coach Terry Stotts, Damian Lillard, and CJ McCollum spoke to the media. All three talked about the role demeanor and attitude has played in the series so far, as well as the Trail Blazers’ focus on improving over last year’s sweep and what they look to take back to Portland for Game 5.
- Coach Stotts spoke about how important Al-Farouq Aminu is to the team, stating that Aminu “gives a great effort every night” and that he does a lot of different things for the team on both ends of the floor.
- He said that games are won on both ends of the floor, and mentioned multiple players that contributed to the Blazers’ effort to keep the Thunder at bay, praising Maurice Harkless for his defense, while Enes Kanter and Zach Collins received recognition for their play inside protecting the rim. He touched on perimeter defense, saying that the team got pulled outside too much on three-point attempts.
- He spoke at length about Damian Lillard’s contributions, especially in terms of assists and passing, as well as his shooting in the second half, noting that Lillard had 15 points in the third quarter.
- Stotts also talked about Lillard’s ability to step up in important moments, stating that Lillard is an “ultimate competitor” who is “going to give it his all.” He referred to Lillard’s leadership making a difference.
- Stotts mentions that he debated as to whether or not to leave Lillard in.
- He said that he liked the demeanor in Game 3, before going on to say that in Game 4 “both teams played hard” and giving Rasheed Wallace credit.
- Coach Stotts concluded by stating that while it is going to be “tough” to finish the series back home, that is what Portland is focused on doing.
- Asked about his performance in the first half, Lillard stated that he wasn’t concerned about where the game was going because although he wasn’t making shots, the Trail Blazers had solid defense and their execution was good, but in the second half, the team needed to come out with energy and aggressiveness, while clamping down on defense.
- Lillard spoke about the confidence and the demeanor the team is playing with, referring to a “business-like mentality.” After Game 3, the team decided to keep playing the way they have been, and Lillard said that he “was proud that we were able to stick to that and actually get it done.” He gave credit to the team’s ability to stick together.
- He said that he “loved” that the Trail Blazers had the lead going into the second half despite the fact that he did not score his first field goal until the end of the first half. He noted that they are not often in the position to have a lead without his scoring. Lillard added that all he needs “is to see it going one time, that could turn into three, four, five” as it did in the third quarter.
- Lillard talked about how they have turned Russell Westbrook into a jump shooter by forcing Westbrook into spots where he has to take the jumper by watching a lot of film and studying players’ tendencies and habits.
- Reflecting on the antics in Game 3, Lillard said that it was “expected” given that the Blazers were the road team and the Thunder were playing at home. Lillard stated that the team just wanted to compete and focus on the team.
- Lillard spoke about how when tough times face the Trail Blazers, they came together to face those challenges: “We leaned on each other a little bit more, and I just think it made us better in the long run.” He said that it has made the team better, instead of the team being overly reliant on him.
- Asked about CJ McCollum, Lillard acknowledged the role of the Trail Blazers’ training staff as well as McCollum’s dedication. He said that one of the great things about McCollum is his ability to focus on what needs to be done and not be distracted by a recent injury in the playoffs.
- Asked about the team’s attitude regarding officiating and the other team’s antics, CJ McCollum said that he feels that the team is a lot more mature. He noted that the team has talked a lot about not engaging with the other team: “If they don’t have a black and gray jersey, don’t talk to them.” He said that their focus is on executing the game plan.
- McCollum talked about how his relationship with Damian Lillard is special, and how they have been through a lot together.
- Reflecting on the team’s focus, McCollum spoke about how last year’s sweep impacted his outlook, noting it was on television everywhere, and how the team knows what they need to do to prevent what happened last year from happening again.
- McCollum stated that his own focus has been on how to get better and influence the game on both sides of the ball, saying, “I take this game very seriously. I put my heart and soul into it, and I sacrifice a lot to get to this point, and I’m thankful that I was able to go through those struggles because it made me a better person.”
- Regarding Game 5, McCollum declared that the team isn’t concerned about the Thunder, but rather, the focus is on themselves: “We need to focus on ours and how we can execute and how we can knock down shots and how we can empower each other.”
- Asked about his teammate, Al-Farouq Aminu, McCollum said that Aminu was huge for the Blazers: “He was the glue guy that we needed and yearned for.”