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.