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.

Warriors' Steve Kerr says trade rumors don't affect D'Angelo Russell

Warriors' Steve Kerr says trade rumors don't affect D'Angelo Russell

D'Angelo Russell is rapidly approaching a date some NBA observers have circled since the Warriors acquired him this summer.

Golden State can trade Russell as soon as Sunday, Dec. 15, and the 23-year-old has been the source of trade speculation during his time in the Bay Area. The Athletic's Jon Krawczynski reported Wednesday, citing sources that the Minnesota Timberwolves "remain interested in Russell" and that the guard "seems to be realistic in understanding that he may not be long for the Warriors once Steph Curry and Klay Thompson return to full health."

Russell is averaging a career-high 22.4 points per game this season to go with 6.1 assists and 3.1 rebounds, serving as the top offensive option in the absence of his All-Star teammates. He knew he wouldn't play much with Thompson this season as he recovers from a torn ACL, but Curry's broken hand threw a wrench into the Warriors' -- and thus Russell's -- prospects this season. Warriors coach Steve Kerr praised how Russell has handled the rumors surrounding him. 

"Money doesn't buy peace of mind," Kerr said Friday morning (H/T San Francisco Chronicle's Connor Letourneau). "It doesn't buy a sense of belonging, a sense of, 'Alright, this is my team.' If there's speculation that you're going to be traded all the time, I don't care how much money you make, I don't care who you are. That's tough. That's no fun to deal with, and this season has been nowhere close to what D'Angelo thought it would be when he first signed with us.

"There's no Steph. We're struggling to win games. He's had his own injuries, and we're throwing all kinds of different lineups out there based on the other injuries we've faced." 

Russell has played in just 15 of the Warriors' 27 games this season, playing on a team that looks far more like the Los Angeles Lakers of his first two seasons than the playoff-contending Brooklyn Nets a year ago -- let alone the reigning Western Conference champion Warriors. 

[RELATED: How Warriors' Chriss earning chance to start at center]

Kerr, who entered this season with the highest winning percentage in NBA history (.785), is as aware of Golden State's dramatically different reality as anyone. He said it has only brought out the best in Russell. 

"So given all that, he's played really well, and he's been a great teammate and he's doing everything he needs to do to solidify his position here," Kerr continued. "But this is the NBA here, and we never know what's coming, what's happening. So, it's a difficult position to be in in general, but for him in particular it's strange set of circumstances and he's handling it really well." 

Whether or not the Warriors trade Russell, it's clear Kerr holds him in high regard.

Watch Warriors' Ky Bowman dominate for Santa Cruz in G League debut

Watch Warriors' Ky Bowman dominate for Santa Cruz in G League debut

Warriors two-way guard Ky Bowman made his G League debut Friday night in Santa Cruz.

He dominated the Agua Caliente Clippers of Ontario. 

The Boston College product could have scored 40 points if he really wanted to, but he picked his spots and made sure his teammates were getting good looks.

After shootaround in Utah on Friday, Warriors coach Steve Kerr was asked what Bowman can work on while he's with the Sea Dubs.

"He's got a really aggressive mindset -- which I like -- but there are still circumstances and situations where he needs to think more pass," Kerr said. "And more strategic, rather than just score, score, score."

Bowman clearly listened to the eight-time NBA champion.

[RELATEDWhy Dubs might be very active before, after trade deadline]

Also, "Sky Bowman" was on full display.

The 22-year-old will be back in action Sunday afternoon as Santa Cruz faces the Northern Arizona Suns. Watch the game at 2:00 p.m. on NBC Sports Bay Area.

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