Damian Lillard has a special feeling about the 2020-21 Portland Trail Blazers, a feeling he hasn’t had since he lined up alongside LaMarcus Aldridge, writes Jason Quick of The Athletic (subscription required).
The Blazers have delivered a 180-degree turnaround in recent weeks, leaving poor teams in their dust and taking it to some of the best squads in the league.
After Portland’s win over the Jazz on Wednesday, Lillard made comments about where he sees this current incarnation of the team, comparing it to the squad featuring Aldridge, Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum and Robin Lopez between 2013 and 2015.
“The feel of this is like, it’s more mature. You know, it’s not like it’s a young team just getting going. The way we are doing it is like a mature team.”
“We are doing the things that will give us a chance to win against any team, in any setting — home or road, regular season or playoffs.”
“It’s just a mature feeling, especially coming after kind of being down-and-out, and then coming out of it being mature enough and together enough to behave this way and perform this way down the stretch in such an important part of the season.”
“The only other time I felt like this about our play, and going into games and finishing games, was either my second or third year.”
“This is the closest since those two years that it’s felt, like … mature,” Lillard said. “We had older guys who knew what needed to be done, and we just went and did it, together. (This) kind of feels that way.”
Portland is currently locked into a heated race to avoid the play-in portion of the postseason. The race between the Blazers, Mavericks and Lakers is set to come down to the wire on Sunday.
In 2014-15, Portland was expected to go deeper into the playoffs, however their hopes were dealt a nasty blow late in the season when Matthews suffered a season-ending achilles injury. Aldridge departed for San Antonio four months later.