SAN FRANCISCO -- Eyebrows were raised Monday morning when a quote from Damian Lillard started circulating in which the Portland Trail Blazers star supposedly told a Denver Nuggets ball boy that the Warriors were "due" to be beaten in the playoffs.
Later Monday, Lillard adamantly denied saying that during his first media availability for the Western Conference finals bout with the Dubs.
"I didn't say that, for one," Lillard said. "He was ear hustling on a conversation that I was having with someone and I wasn't even talking about the Warriors. That's unprofessional and I was disappointed by that just because you don't try to ear hustle and then quote me as saying something that I didn't say, especially when you're standing right next to me and you could have just asked me."
Just because he didn't say that doesn't mean he has doubts his team can compete with and dethrone the Warriors.
The Blazers split the season series with the Warriors this season, and are 4-3 against the two-time defending NBA champions in the past two seasons, including Lillard's game-winning shot at Oracle Arena in December.
Needless to say, Lillard likes the Blazers' chances in their first conference finals since 2000.
"I'm really confident," Lillard said. "Like Casey said, we split the season series with them. We've won on their floor and on our floor. So, I think that shows we know we are capable of winning. We know we are capable of beating them. We just have to go out there and do it. Put it on the floor."
The Blazers will face an uphill battle starting Tuesday night in Game 1 at Oracle Arena.
Without Jusuf Nurkic and potentially Rodney Hood, the Blazers will have to rely heavily on Lillard and fellow backcourt star CJ McCollum to carry the load against the Warriors.
While the chips might be stacked against the Blazers, Lillard isn't scared of the Warriors, who play a similar style to Portland.
"Yeah, I think we match up pretty well with them," Lillard said. "Our last series was against guys like Paul Millsap and (Nikola) Jokic. Huge bodies in the paint. They gave us a lot of trouble on the glass. They threw it on the block and was just a handful. We had to double-team and put ourselves out of position to rebound the ball. So, they gave us a lot of trouble with their size.
"I think with Golden State they are much more of a perimeter-oriented team. They do a lot of screening and cutting and shooting a lot of threes and stuff like that. Not really throwing the ball to the block. So, I think it's a much better matchup for us."
Entering the playoffs, few thought the Blazers could make it out of Round 1, but Lillard blowtorched Russell Westbrook and the Thunder in Round 1. A grueling seven-game series with the Nuggets ended Sunday when McCollum dropped 37 to book a date with the Warriors.
Now, Lillard, an Oakland native, gets his shot at the NBA's king.
They might be underdogs, but they've got a chance.. That's all Lillard needs.