It's been quite a finish to the 2020-21 NBA season for the Portland Trail Blazers, who currently sit in the sixth spot out West, tied with the Los Angeles Lakers.
And now it comes down to Sunday's game at home against the Denver Nuggets, Portland’s final game of the regular season.
When the Second Half of the season schedule was released on Feb. 24 many had circled the final games for the Trail Blazers as being the toughest stretch of the entire season.
It’s been a grueling schedule, to say the least.
Not only have the Blazers gone an impressive 9-2 in their last 11 games, but they’ve stayed healthy along the way.
That doesn’t mean the Blazers aren’t feeling the extra fatigue of the condensed season.
Trail Blazers superstar and team captain Damian Lillard, who has averaged 38 minutes per game over his last three contests, compared this season’s schedule to his other eight seasons in the league.
“It has been different,” Lillard said following Saturday’s practice. “I think, first of all, we coming off a short offseason. We finished the year in the bubble and it felt like we turned right around and was playing again.”
Lillard added that he doesn’t remember the last time they had two days off in between games.
The Second Half slate for Portland that wrap-ups Sunday will have consisted of 37 games over the course of 67 days.
During the First Half, the Blazers played 35 games over 72 days.
Despite the NBA running studies that the league as a whole isn’t experiencing more injuries during this shortened season, it hasn’t felt that way for the Blazers, who obviously endured major injuries during the First Half of the season to Jusuf Nurkic and CJ McCollum.
“Not being able to be on the practice court as much, we just traveling and playing game after game. The game is getting faster. We playing at a faster pace, smaller lineups – puts us at more of a risk for injury,” Lillard explained.
The 30-year-old point guard also mentioned that playing in more back-to-backs than he has ever played in since he’s been in the league has also played a major factor in the amount of wear and tear of this season.
After having seven back-to-backs in the First Half of the season, the Trail Blazers endured ten back-to-backs over the last few months.
Dealing with nagging abdominal, hamstring, foot, and ankle issues, and that’s just a few of the nagging injuries that were talked about, Lillard is happy to be on the mend.
But rest will be key heading into the postseason.
The Blazers have said many times over the past couple of weeks that they want to avoid the play-in tournament and secure the sixth seed.
Ahead of the final game of the season, Lillard is thankful that the team and himself have remedied their physical and mental fatigue.
“I think we’re playing the kind of basketball that we want to play at the right time.
Me, personally, I feel more clear. I had a lot of things going on off the court, just in my life, and physically, and I’m just happy that going into this last game and going into the playoffs, I’m kind of moving past those things and feeling better.”