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Lillard in awe of Warriors' performance in the Western Conference Finals

Lillard in awe of Warriors' performance in the Western Conference Finals

By Ali Thanawalla, NBC Sports Bay Area

The Portland Trail Blazers entered the 2019 Western Conference finals with a lot of confidence.

They had just knocked off the No. 2-seeded Denver Nuggets in seven games in the second round of the NBA playoffs, and felt they could compete with the defending champion Golden State Warriors.

As you know by now, the Warriors swept the Blazers to advance to their fifth straight NBA Finals.

So, what the heck happened to the Blazers, who were the No. 3 seed in the West?

"We just lost, bruh," All-Star guard Damian Lillard said on The Joe Budden Podcast. "Them n----s good."

The Oakland native then proceeded to give the hosts a real answer about what he saw during the four-game series against his hometown team.

"I ain't never seen nobody go on runs like that," Lillard said. "They put runs together like that. You can do nothing but respect it."

In Game 1, Portland led by five at one point before the Warriors won by 22. In Games 2, 3 and 4, the Blazers held either a 17- or 18-point lead and lost all three games.

The Warriors teams of the last five years had the incredible ability to overcome any deficit. No lead was safe with Steph Curry and Klay Thompson bombing away from deep.

The amazing part about the Warriors' four-game sweep of Lillard and the Blazers is that they did it without Kevin Durant, who at the time was recovering from a strained right calf.

The good news for Lillard is that Durant is gone. The bad news is Curry and Draymond Green are still around, and Thompson will be back in a few months.

Mistah F.A.B. explains Dame just 'ran Town business' on Bagley

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Mistah F.A.B. explains Dame just 'ran Town business' on Bagley

Mistah F.A.B. heard Damian Lillard’s Marvin Bagley diss track, and knew exactly what the Trail Blazers star was doing.

“Dame’s just telling business, man, he’s just representing,” the Oakland-based rap impresario told NBC Sports Bay Area’s Logan Murdock on Thursday. “… That’s Dame Dolla, man. He just straight ran Town business.”

“Town business” meant Lillard answering Bagley’s morning challenge with afternoon heat, and F.A.B. explained what had to be in the Oakland native’s mind as he recorded, then dropped the song that also dropped jaws across the NBA.

“You just go in battle mode, man,” F.A.B. said. “You want to make sure you come with some bars, you want to make sure that you respond -- each bar’s pointed, but you get your point across. He got his point across, man.

“He talked about how he felt, you know what I mean? He was like, Big Bank take Little Bank. I’m a couple hundred mil. This is a field day. Basically like, c’mon, man, you don’t want these bars. You don’t want this problem.”

F.A.B. said he knew Lillard had the goods “when I first heard him rap,” and his eyes really opened when he saw the Blazers star’s now-famous freestyle on Sway’s SiriusXM Radio morning show in 2015.

F.A.B. believes Lillard might be the best athlete rapper ever, and has pointed advice for anyone who might challenge him again.

“You just better make it count. You got to make it count,” F.A.B. said. “Battle rap is like sports in a way -- on any given night, anyone can be beat. All it takes is for one battle, one bar, and somebody could steal the whole momentum of the crowd and whatnot, you know? … You just got to come correct.”

Most people believe Bagley didn’t do that Thursday, and F.A.B. sees the quality of Lillard and his Oakland upbringing.

“Dame’s just cool. Dame’s a real class act, man,” F.A.B. said. “He’s just so professional. It’s a reflection of how he was raised, his parents--  he’s got great parents, good structure. He really comes from that life, though. He don’t got to do nothing extra, you know what I mean? When you really come from the life that a lot of people be trying to exaggerate [about], to be, to make it seem like they’re really from, then they do the most. …

“He got it honest, though. His job, man, was just to go play basketball and change the narrative, and that’s what he did, man. That’s why he’s so humble, so respected. He know where he come from.”

How Chris Mullin sees 'huge difference' in Warriors, Blazers backcourts

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How Chris Mullin sees 'huge difference' in Warriors, Blazers backcourts

Damian Lillard is having a tough go at it, and it's not about to get any easier.

Lillard reportedly has a separated rib, and he and the Portland Trail Blazers now face an extremely steep uphill battle to dig themselves out of a three-games-to-none series deficit against the Warriors in the Western Conference finals.

Game 4 is Monday night, and if Lillard and his backcourt mate CJ McCollum don't find a way to be more efficient scorers -- they've combined for 35.2 percent shooting from the field thus far -- it could mean the end of Portland's season.

Of course, Lillard and McCollum aren't shooting in a vacuum. They're going up against a talented Warriros defense that's employing a strategy designed to make them uncomfortable.

"Steve Kerr’s defensive strategy coming in, I think was great," Hall of Famer Chris Mullin said after the Blazers Game 3 loss Saturday. "Looks to me [the Warriors] all bought into it, and they love it. They’re really thriving in it. They’re getting the ball out of CJ McCollum’s hands, Damian Lillard’s hands, and that’s frustrating them. They want the ball back."

Mullin knows Lillard and McCollum are more than capable of catching fire at any moment. But unfortunately for Portland, that's not exclusive to the Blazers in this series.

“They’re great players, they really, really are," Mullin said of Lillard and McCollum. "They can really score the ball. They’re two of the best guards -- probably the second-best backcourt in the league.

“There’s a huge difference between No. 1 and No. 2.”

The No. 1 backcourt being referred to, of course, is that of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. The Splash Brothers are having a far more proficient series, compared to the Blazers' backcourt, and Mullin believes that's partly because they're more difficult to strategize against.

"What Steve Kerr’s done, he knows what [Lillard and McCollum] don’t like to do, and he’s making them do it," Mullin explained. "So when they give the ball up, that’s wearing on them, I think, mentally and physically. When you see Steph give it up, he almost gets more energized, because he loves running off screens. Same with Klay. 

"I think it’s had a negative effect on [Lillard and McCollum's] energy," Mullin continued, "because that’s not what they want to do. They’re not as comfortable without the ball. I think it’s had an effect across the board, so I give credit to the strategy that Steve has come into the series with, and then a lot of credit to the players for executing it."

Given that the Warriors have prevailed in each of the first three games of the series while employing that same strategy, it's unlikely they'll go away from what has proven to be effective when they take the floor for Game 4 at Moda Center on Monday night. If Golden State can continue making Lillard and McCollum uncomfortable, Portland's season could be on borrowed time.

Based on what he's seen, Mullin isn't expecting a potential Game 5 to be necessary.

"Get the brooms out," he said.

Damian Lillard says 'lot of contact' on Andre Iguodala's Game 2 steal

Damian Lillard says 'lot of contact' on Andre Iguodala's Game 2 steal

With the Warriors up by three points and only 12.3 seconds remaining in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals, it was time for Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard to pull of some more heroics. 

Not today. 

Instead, it was Warriors forward Andre Iguodala once again turning back the clock when it mattered must. Lillard never even attempted one of his signature 3-pointers. As he dribbled to find space, Iguodala swiped the ball and handed Portland its second-consecutive loss in the series. 

"I know it's a tough position for the referees to be in to make a call at that point in the game," Lillard said to reporters after the game. "Tried to get a little bit of space the first time. He grabbed my arm, and I lost the ball a little bit. I regained it, and I was going to shoot it again. He got his hand on the ball.

"For me, as the offensive player, I felt like it was contact. There was a lot of contact. But obviously, the ref is not going to decide the game or jump in at that point. You know, so ... good defensive play."

Even at 35 years old, Iguodala still has some of the best hands in the NBA and is considered one of the game's best defenders. He also frequently has some of the best quotes. 

“I got lucky,” Iguodala said facetiously.

[RELATED: Lillard doesn't think he has played his last game in Oracle Arena]

The Warriors now have a two-games-to-none lead over the Blazers, and the reigning champs are only two wins away from yet another trip to the NBA Finals. Sure, there's been some luck sprinkled in, but it's clear who the superior team is in this series.

Seth Curry reveals how he tried to trash talk Steph in Warriors' Game 2 win

Seth Curry reveals how he tried to trash talk Steph in Warriors' Game 2 win

Seth Curry tried to turn back the clock and play the role of pesky little brother on Thursday night. He did it well, too, stealing the ball from older brother Steph four times and scoring 16 points off the bench in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals. 

Before the Warriors eventually escaped Seth's Blazers, 114-111, to take a two-games-to-none lead in the best-of-seven series, the younger Curry tried to distract his elder at the free throw. Good luck with that. 

"He [Steph] made the first one [free throw] and I told him that was like 70 in a row," Seth told reporters after the game. "I tried to jinx him a little bit. He was like, 'Alright, it's gonna be 72.' He made 'em both."

Take a look at the brotherly love below: 

"He tried to distract me at the free throw line in the fourth quarter," Steph said, "and I knew how to kind of go back at him to stay focused on what I needed to do." 

[RELATED: Seth impactful, but Steph wins Curry brothers' Game 2 battle]

Older brother Steph got the better of Seth in what was truly a battle of the Curry family that has their parents on an emotional roller coaster. The Warriors' star point guard scored a game-high 37 points and added eight assists and eight rebounds in the win. 

The brothers' next chance to one-up each other comes Saturday in Game 3 at the Moda Center in Portland.

Damian Lillard doesn't think he has played his last game in Oracle Arena

Damian Lillard doesn't think he has played his last game in Oracle Arena

Damian Lillard doesn't think he has played his last game in Oracle Arena. 

The Oakland native fell in a two-games-to-none hole in a best-of-seven series with the Warriors on Thursday, as Golden State eked out a 114-111 win over his Portland Trail Blazers. But when the San Francisco Chronicle's Ann Killion asked Lillard if it crossed his mind that Game 2 of the Western Conference finals could have been his last in the building, Lillard sounded confident the Blazers haven't made their final trip to Oakland. 

Lillard started slowly Thursday night, missing all three of his shots in the first quarter. But over the final 36 minutes, he scored 23 points on 6-of-13 shooting (and 5-of-10 from 3-point range). 

Considering the 28-year-old shot 40 percent from the field in his last eight games prior to Friday, it's certainly possible Lillard just shot his way out of a slump. If he did, it doesn't seem far-fetched to think the Blazers will force a Game 5. 

It sounds like Lillard is betting on it. 

Stay ahead of your team in the Western Conference Finals. Get LIVE Trail Blazers coverage, in-depth articles, podcast, videos and more. Download the app, log-in and the Blazers are at your fingertips. Download Now

Steve Kerr explains one thing Warriors need to fix in Game 2 vs. Blazers

Steve Kerr explains one thing Warriors need to fix in Game 2 vs. Blazers

The Warriors beat the Trail Blazers, 116-94, in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals on Tuesday night.

So it was basically a perfect performance, right? Nope.

Although Golden State held Portland to 36 percent shooting overall and forced 21 turnovers, the Blazers shot 31 free throws. In fact, the disparity in attempts through three quarters was staggering at 22 to 3.

"That's what kept them in the game through three quarters. We really dominated every other area, but all those free throws kept them in it," Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said on KNBR 680 on Wednesday evening. "That is something we'd like to do a better job of -- keeping them off the foul line and trying to force them to score."

When they didn't foul, the Dubs did an excellent job of keeping Portland's star guards in check.

Damian Lillard went 4-for-12 from the field and committed seven turnovers, while CJ McCollum went 7-for-19 overall and turned the ball over three times.

If the Warriors defend without fouling, that triggers fastbreak opportunities. 

"The other problem with the free throws is that they get their defense set up and we got to play against the halfcourt," Kerr explained. "We want to keep the game going, we want to get into transition.

"It's tough to do that when you're fouling."

The Warriors want to see more of this in Game 2 on Thursday night:

When a team takes a 2-0 lead in a best-of-seven, it wins the series about 93 percent of the time.

With this in mind, the Warriors should expect the Blazers to play like their season is on the line tonight at Oracle Arena.

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Blazers coach Terry Stotts apologizes for answer to Steph Curry question

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Blazers coach Terry Stotts apologizes for answer to Steph Curry question

Steph Curry made nine 3-pointers in the Warriors' Game 1 win over the Trail Blazers in the Western Conference finals.

Portland's defensive strategy when Golden State set high ball screens for Curry was ...

... suspect to say the least.

The following back-and-forth transpired during the postgame press conferences:

Anthony Slater of The Athletic: "Houston had some success trapping Steph and really getting out on him. Is is sustainable for you guys to keep dropping the big so far off of him?"

Blazers head coach Terry Stotts: "I can't remember. When he had 33 in the second half, were they trapping him then?"

The Athletic: "Yes."

Stotts: "And he scored 33 in the second half?"

The Athletic: "Yeah."

Stotts: "OK. Yeah, we'll look at that."

After the Blazers' practice on Wednesday, Stotts apologized to Slater.

He also acknowledged that Portland might be making some adjustments for Game 2 on Thursday night.

"(Curry) had 20 pick-and-rolls and he scored five times on them, but they were all 3s. I think we have to re-think it, but we were down six going into the fourth quarter and Steph had one basket in the fourth quarter.

"They scored 39 in the fourth quarter without him scoring one basketball in the pick-and-roll, so it goes beyond that, but yes, we have to revisit what we want to do on pick-and-rolls."

Stotts is correct in that Portland struggled on the defensive end in other areas besides pick-and-roll coverages, but simply letting Curry dribble into open pull-up 3s doesn't seem like the right strategy moving forward.

Plain and simple, the Warriors are going to attack Enes Kanter relentlessly in several different ways.

Steph Curry reminded of old times vs. brother ahead of Warriors-Blazers

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Steph Curry reminded of old times vs. brother ahead of Warriors-Blazers

Steph and Seth Curry will become the first pair of brothers to face each other in an NBA conference finals series when the Warriors and Trail Blazers meet for Game 1 on Tuesday at Oracle Arena. While it will be a first for the league, it's a situation the two brothers have found themselves in quite often throughout their lives.

Their father, Dell, played 16 seasons in the NBA. Older brother Steph was the first unanimous league MVP in league history. And the younger Seth has a better career 3-point percentage than both of 'em.

Had to make for some pretty competitive games in the backyard, right?

You bet.

"He always loved Tracy McGrady. That was his favorite player growing up," Steph Curry said of his younger brother a day before Game 1. "Mine was Reggie (Miller). So it was kind of a little different era, but it was just back and forth, playing 1-on-1 ... It got pretty heated at times, like it does with brothers." 

"He always accused me of cheating when I didn't give him foul calls and all that type of stuff," Steph continued. "So, pretty standard relationship in that sense."

What about as adults? Do those 1-on-1 runs still take place today?

"We haven't really got to play in the summertimes as much recently, because of injuries and surgeries and different schedules and all that type of stuff."

Ah, right. Real life. Injuries. Something both brothers can relate to.

Steph, of course, saw the early portion of his career derailed by ankle injuries. The younger Seth has had his own share of poor injury luck, missing all of last season recovering from a fractured tibia. It came at a particularly inopportune time, as Seth was destined for unrestricted free agency this past offseason.

Seth ended up signing a two-year contract with Portland in July, and he's been a value-find for the Trail Blazers. Seth averaged 7.9 points per game during the regular season and gave coach Terry Stotts another solid option at guard behind the backcourt duo of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.

It's not lost on Steph how far his younger brother has come in the face of adversity.

"(Seth)'s had a very interesting journey to get to where he's at, dealing with some significant injuries and surgeries as well," Steph said. "For him to just grind and understand that he belongs on this level ... his confidence in himself never wavered, and he works hard."

"It's been fun to watch him defy the odds in that sense," Steph continued, "and be who he is."

Just like Steph, Seth's rollercoaster journey has brought him to the Western Conference finals, Portland's first in 19 years. It's certain to be a memorable experience for the two brothers, but once the ball goes up, it's bound to feel like old times.

NBA playoff schedule 2019: Trail Blazers vs. Warriors Western Conference Finals dates, times, TV

NBA playoff schedule 2019: Trail Blazers vs. Warriors Western Conference Finals dates, times, TV

The Trail Blazers are headed to the Western Conference finals for the first time in 19 years.

They reached the third round of the NBA playoffs Sunday by defeating the Denver Nuggets 100-96 in Game 7.

This year's Western Conference finals will be a battle of the Currys, and feature perhaps the two best backcourts in the NBA.

Portland and Golden State split their four-game series during the regular season, with each side winning a game on the other's home floor.

The Western Conference finals will begin Tuesday in Oakland.

Here's the Western Conference finals schedule. All games will be televised on ESPN: 

Game 1 -- Tuesday, May 14, at 6 p.m. PT in Oakland
Game 2 -- Thursday, May 16, at 6 p.m. PT in Oakland
Game 3 -- Saturday, May 18, at 6 p.m. PT in Portland
Game 4 -- Monday, May 20, at 6 p.m. PT in Portland
Game 5 -- Wednesday, May 22, at 6 p.m. PT in Oakland (if necessary)
Game 6 -- Friday, May 24, at 6 p.m. PT in Portland (if necessary)
Game 7 -- Sunday, May 26, at 6 p.m. PT in Oakland (if necessary)