Warriors

How Warriors have slowed Blazers star Damian Lillard in West finals

How Warriors have slowed Blazers star Damian Lillard in West finals

The Warriors know that the only way the Portland Trail Blazers can beat them in the Western Conference finals is if Damian Lillard goes nuts.

They aren't about to let him do that.

Lillard averaged 25.8 points per game during the regular season on 44 percent shooting, leading the Blazers to the West's No. 3 playoff seed. But through two games against the Warriors, Lillard is averaging 21 points per game on just 10-of-28 shooting (35.7 percent) from the field.

During the series, Lillard's average shot has come 29.1 feet away from the rim, according to ESPN's Kirk Goldberry. While he's shooting an incredible 42.1 percent on those looks, the Warriors have stopped Lillard from getting to the rim. In fact, they've stopped him from even attempting shots at the rim.

During the regular season, the Blazers star averaged more than 11 points per game inside the arc, per Goldberry. He has scored just six total points inside the arc through two games against the Warriors. He took an average of 6.5 shots inside 8 feet per game during the regular season, but he has attempted just three during the series against the Warriors.

Golden State's defense has suffocated Lillard in the first two games, leading to the Warriors taking a two-games-to-zero series lead.

A lot of the credit should go to Klay Thompson, who has hounded Lillard during the series. When guarded by Thompson, Lillard is averaging just 18.1 shots per 100 possessions and 12.1 points per game. 

Aside from Thompson, the Warriors have blitzed Lillard on the pick-and-roll a lot this series. In Game 2, the Warriors blitzed Lillard 19 times, according to Goldberry, which is the most any player has faced during a game this postseason.

[RELATED: Five defensive plays that define Warriors' championship dynasty]

Lillard has done his best to combat the blitzes, finding Enes Kanter, Zach Collins or Meyers Leonard on the roll. Unfortunately for the Blazers, neither of those three players is great at finding the open man once the defense rotates, and their finishing around the rim leaves something to be desired. 

Toward the end of Game 2, Blazers coach Terry Stotts elected to run the pick-and-roll with Evan Turner instead of a big, a formula he sparingly used during the regular season. That could be something Stotts goes to early in Saturday's Game 3 to try and get Lillard loose.

The Blazers will have to find a way to free up Lillard and beat the blitz in Game 3 at Moda Center, or else their postseason could end very soon. 

Matt Barnes was on verge of NFL pursuit before Warriors offered chance

Matt Barnes was on verge of NFL pursuit before Warriors offered chance

Matt Barnes wasn't guaranteed or promised anything in his NBA career.

In fact, the former Warriors forward nearly left hoops in 2006 to pursue football.

"I was on the verge of trying to jump into the NFL," Barnes recently explained to Warriors broadcaster Bob Fitzgerald. "I was still working out -- basketball and football -- during the summertime because basketball hadn't really seemed to hit.

"I had played four years up to that point and bounced around -- been on a handful of teams -- and just really wasn't getting a fair shot."

Barnes was selected in the second round (No. 46 overall) of the 2002 NBA Draft, but spent his entire rookie season in the G League with the Fayetteville Patriots.

He didn't make his NBA debut until Jan. 19, 2004 when the Clippers gave him a shot with a 10-day contract.

Barnes signed with the Sacramento Kings in October 2004, and appeared in 43 games before he was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers in February.

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

That brings us to the summer of 2006.

"I was in Sacramento (his hometown) at the time. Baron Davis called me (and said), 'Hey, we're gonna have an open run at the facility (in Oakland). If you're not doing nothing, come down.' I wasn't doing nothing. Hopped in my car, drove down an hour and a half. 

"Played well -- not knowing that Nellie (Warriors coach Don Nelson) was watching the whole time upstairs through the offices. We finished playing, he comes down, tells me I played well (and asks) where I'm going to camp. I was just like, 'You know coach, I don't really have any plans.'

"He told me, he's like, 'I can't promise you anything. I think we have 16 guarantees and 19 people coming to training camp, but if you play like you did today I'll give you a chance.' And that was the first time a coach really had a conversation with me. That's all I needed.

"(I) made the team and continued to use the games as practices and eventually worked my way into the lineup. The rest is history. That's kind of when I put my name on the map."

Over 76 games (23 starts) during the "We Believe" 2006-07 season, Barnes averaged 9.8 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.0 steals, while shooting nearly 37 percent from deep. In 11 playoff games, he averaged 11.1 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.5 steals and shot over 42 percent from 3-point range.

[RELATED: Barnes reveals 'We Believe' Warriors documentary in works]

After one more season with the Dubs in 2007-08, Barnes played for the Phoenix Suns, Orlando Magic, Los Angeles Lakers, Clippers, Memphis Grizzlies and Kings.

He returned to the Warriors in early March 2017 after Kevin Durant sustained a knee injury, and became an NBA champion.

The 40-year-old currently co-hosts a fantastic podcast with Stephen Jackson called "All the Smoke," and he is terrific as an analyst on TV.

It's crazy to think how different his life could have been had he not picked up BD's phone call 14 years ago ...

Follow @DrewShiller on Twitter and Instagram

[SPORTS UNCOVERED: Listen to the latest episode]

Damian Lillard torches Dan Orlovsky for 'spoiled', 'entitled' remarks

lillardorlovskysplit.jpg
USATSI/Getty Images

Damian Lillard torches Dan Orlovsky for 'spoiled', 'entitled' remarks

We live in an era of hot takes. Being correct isn't as important as being noticed. Ratings triumph over truth.

It leads to a situation in which television pundits frequently spout off misguided and easily disproven snap judgments without understanding the true context of the situation. Why give an accurate assessment when a bombastic quote can drive exponentially more traffic?

Most times, they aren't held accountable. On Thursday, though, Damian Lillard wasn't going to let that fly.

Lillard recently announced that he would sit out games if and when the NBA resumed the season if the Trail Blazers didn't have a chance to qualify for the playoffs and compete for a championship. While that is entirely reasonable, former NFL quarterback Dan Orlovsky joined ESPN's "Get Up" on Wednesday and put his foot in his mouth in criticizing Lillard's decision.

"How can you sit there and go, ‘Nope, I’m not going to play, but understand that there are people out there that don’t have that choice," Orlovsky said. "They have to go to work. They have to go earn their money. I struggle with sitting here and going ‘you don’t come off, in some way, a spoiled and entitled brat by saying I’m not going to play."

Spoiled and entitled? Seriously? Lillard is anything but, and he didn't let that idiotic comment slide.

Let's see. Lillard grew up in a rough part of Oakland. He didn't have a single D-1 scholarship offer coming out of high school. He attended a mid-major at Weber State University and built himself up to become the No. 6 overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. In the time since, he has been named Rookie of the Year, made four All-NBA teams, selected to five All-Star games and become the face of his franchise. Not to mention, he continually gives back to his Oakland community, including hosting an annual picnic and donating to his high school.

What exactly is spoiled about that? And Orlovsky has the nerve to call Lillard entitled?!

Orlovsky, as Lillard reminded him, was a career backup. 

Across 12 career starts, he posted a 2-10-0 record. He is most known for unknowingly stepping out of the back of the end zone for a safety. And this is the guy who we're supposed to view as an authority on the circumstances of a superstar?

Come. On.

Lillard doesn't back down, on the court or off of it. He didn't relent in calling Orlovsky out, and to no one's surprise, the comments eventually were walked back ... sort of.

I suppose you can credit Orlovsky for acknowledging his mistake and apologizing, but I won't. If not for Lillard defending himself, the comments likely would have gone unchecked and further emboldened the hot-take culture.

[RELATED: Warriors could practice again at Chase in next two weeks]

Maybe Orlovsky will think twice -- or at least do a little research -- before opening his mouth next time.

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