Trail Blazers

Austin Rivers enjoys the challenge of going up against Damian Lillard

Trail Blazers

On Tuesday night in Denver, Damian Lillard had a game for the ages. 

The Trail Blazers star recorded the first 55 points, 10 assist game in NBA Playoff history, and also made an NBA record 12 three-pointers.

The task of guarding Dame was largely on the shoulders of Denver guard Austin Rivers. To be fair to Rivers, he did a good job on Lillard most of the night. He forced Lillard into contested shots, Lillard was just able to hit them anyway. 

Dame hit shot after shot down the stretch to keep the Blazers in the game.

He hit a miraculous shot to send it to overtime and put it on repeat to send the game to double-overtime. 

When Dame finally did miss a shot, Rivers' reaction said it all - Hands together in prayer, thanking the basketball gods. 

Prior to Wednesday's practice, Rivers talked about the tall task of stopping one of the best players in the NBA.

"It's always a challenge guarding the better players in the league but it's something I love to do," said Rivers. "Last night was fun actually. It wasn't fun, him making all those shots, but that challenge is always fun going against a guy like that. It elevates your game. "

When Lillard goes off like this, it's easy to make the comparison to the point guard running the show down in The Bay. Like Lillard, Steph Curry has transformed the game. Curry led the league this season with 337 threes, and is just 141 behind Ray Allen to become the league's all-time career leader. 

 

It may not be fair to compare the two all the time, but their greatness makes it hard not to. Rivers, having guarded both of them numerous times, puts the two in a category all their own.

"(Lillard) had one of those nights where it felt like no matter what you did he was gonna score the basketball. We were trying everything. Where he shoots from, it's just abnormal. There's only one other guy in the league that does what he does, and that's Steph."

With Lillard and Curry you know the big shot is coming but you still can't stop it. What you can do is do everything you can to make sure they don't get clean, uncontested shots. That's exactly what Rivers hopes to do on Thursday - make Lillard's night as difficult as possible.

"The assignment against Damian's gonna be tough but it always has been and it always will be. He's just that level of a player. I just gotta continue to make it as difficult as possible."

Lillard has proven over and over again that what's difficult for him is impossible for everyone else. Denver will have to throw everything at him to have a hope of stopping him.

Lillard always seems to show up when his team's back is against the wall, and it doesn't get much more intense than a do-or-die Game 6.

Denver may have won the contest in Denver on Tuesday, but now the game is all tied 0-0 again and the two will have 48 minutes to battle to see if they're going back to Denver for Game 7.

It's win or go home for Portland, and Denver knows they'll get the Blazers best shot. 

"We don't have an edge. We have the same goal as them and that's to win the series," said Rivers. "They're a playoff-tested team so we know they're not gonna go down easy. Our expectation is that this is gonna be another battle like last game. Everybody has to be ready to go."