Blazers' Damian Lillard believes Warriors are 'due' for playoff defeat

Blazers' Damian Lillard believes Warriors are 'due' for playoff defeat

It wasn't Game 5 against the Thunder. In Damian Lillard's first career Game 7, the Portland Trail Blazers star guard scored 13 points on 3-of-17 shooting from the field Sunday against the Denver Nuggets.

But the Blazers, thanks to CJ McCollum's 37-point outburst, kicked the Nuggets to the curb, 100-96.

Up next: A Western Conference finals battle with the two-time defending NBA champion Warriors.

Even if the Warriors are without Kevin Durant -- who missed Game 6 of the NBA playoff second-round series with the Rockets because of a calf strain -- the Blazers appear to be outgunned in their first conference finals appearance since 2000. After all, how many advantages does Portland have in the individual matchups? Probably not many.

But despite the Warriors' talent edge, Lillard is confident in the Blazers' ability to slay the dragon.

Following the Game 7 win over the Nuggets, a Pepsi Center ball boy was offering Dame some encouragement before his battle with the Dubs.

Lillard's response shows how unafraid the Oakland native is of the NBA's Goliath. 

"They're due," Lillard said, via ESPN. "They're due."

However, Lillard later denied this claim, telling reporters Monday afternoon that his quote was taken out of context.

Due, the Warriors might be. But are the Blazers, without Jusuf Nurkic and perhaps Rodney Hood, the team to take them down? It seems unlikely.

[RELATED: Warriors vs. Blazers Western Conference finals schedule]

In order for Portland to have a chance at dethroning Golden State, Lillard and McCollum will have to outplay Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, and even that might not be enough. 

The Blazers face an uphill battle starting Tuesday night at Oracle Arena, but that's nothing new for a Portland squad that was counted out the minute Nurkic went down with a grisly leg injury. 

After Lillard sent Russell Westbrook and the Thunder packing in Round 1, McCollum dealt the kill shot to the Nuggets on Sunday in Denver. Now, the Blazers face an unenviable but unavoidable task of trying to oust the Warriors.

Best of luck.

NBA rumors: Warriors wouldn't have let Steph Curry play in Orlando

NBA rumors: Warriors wouldn't have let Steph Curry play in Orlando

The NBA reportedly is considering creating a second "bubble" in Chicago for the eight teams that were not included in the Orlando bubble as part of the league's expanded playoff format. Warriors general manager Bob Myers said Thursday that Golden State potentially would participate, despite coach Steve Kerr previously insisting that the Dubs would not be interested in such a setup.

It remains to be seen if the second bubble will actually take place, but even if it does, it sure seems like you won't be seeing Steph Curry play in it. ESPN's Jackie MacMullan reported he wouldn't have played in Orlando had the Warriors qualified, and it begs the question as to why Chicago would be any different.

"I was told unequivocally by people at Golden State," MacMullan said Thursday on the "Hoop Collective" podcast, "if Golden State came back (to play in Orlando) they weren't gonna let Steph Curry step foot on the floor."

"The reason they were worried about Steph Curry," MacMullan added, "was because they didn't feel that he had played enough to come back."

So, there you have it. The Warriors arguably would have very little to gain from participating in the Chicago bubble, and given that there is no championship at stake -- like there is in Orlando -- Golden State doesn't have much motivation to send its star veteran players, especially those that are returning from injury.

Curry played in precisely one of the Warriors' final 61 games before the season was paused due to the coronavirus pandemic after returning from a broken wrist. And if he isn't going to play, you can bet Klay Thompson -- who would be returning from a torn ACL -- won't either.

[RELATED: Stephen A believes Warriors will return to title contention]

Draymond Green previously said that he would have played in Orlando, but if the Splash Brothers are out, why would Golden State risk the health of the other remaining piece of its championship core?

The Warriors need to find a way to stay in basketball shape and continue developing chemistry over what is going to be an extremely long layoff before the start of next season. But if Curry, Thompson and Green aren't involved, then that kind of ruins the whole point.

[RUNNIN' PLAYS PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Warriors would gain little partaking in NBA's proposed 'second bubble'

Warriors would gain little partaking in NBA's proposed 'second bubble'

Insofar as the Warriors run a fairly democratic operation, with each player having a voice and the core veterans operating as advisers to head coach Steve Kerr, an invitation to become part of a proposed but not approved second NBA “bubble” presents a dilemma.

If mandated by the NBA, they’ll go, whether it’s Chicago or Las Vegas or another site. That the vets – Steph Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson -- would not be expected to play makes the team’s participation cursory, if not downright pointless.

Yet general manager Bob Myers recently said the Warriors would be “team players” and, in the end, do whatever is best for the league.

“You have to take a step back and say, ‘We’re going to be good partners,’” he said in a phone conversation. “We’re going to do what’s best for the league in a difficult environment.”

Understand, the Warriors don’t want to be there -- and why should they? Their 2019-20 season is over, and there is no definitive start date for 2020-2021. They’d be scrimmaging, at potentially increased risk of the coronavirus (COVID-19), with the crew that absorbed most of the minutes last season.

[RUNNIN' PLAYS PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Which brings us to their real desire. They want to gather as a group before the next training camp, currently penciled in for November. Kerr told me a few weeks ago that he “wouldn’t mind” getting his team together for what amounts to a minicamp in the middle of an offseason extended by the pandemic.

Coaches want it, and so do the players. They all would like the experience of playing with each other, which didn’t exist last season. Thompson missed the entire season, and Curry played four games, only one with Andrew Wiggins, who came over in a February trade.

Ideally, that would occur at Chase Center, which has opened for individual activities with attendance limitations but remains suspended for full team activities.

[RELATED: Why these 10 big men could fit Warriors in free agency]

Should the day come when the current restrictions are relaxed, expect the Warriors to identify a week to get everyone inside. Get Thompson on the floor with Wiggins and others, scrimmaging together for the first time. Evaluate how Curry and Green have responded to the long layoff.

That would be productive, as well as their first blowout activity since early March.

Going into a second bubble, with a stripped-down squad, confined to a hotel for a week or two, is something the Warriors are willing to do. Willing, but hardly eager and barely engaged.