No disrespect, because the Denver Nuggets are coming off a three-game win streak to beat the L.A. Clippers in game seven of their Western Conference playoff series, but Damian Lillard believes LeBron James is on his way to his 10th Finals appearance in his 16th season of his NBA career.
The Portland Trail Blazers point guard and Lakers star share a mutual respect for one another.
Before Giannis Antetokoumpo was named the 2020 NBA MVP, Lillard believed that James was the most deserving.
"This season I think it's LeBron," Lillard told ESPN’s Jalen and Jacoby show back in March. "They're the No. 1 team in the west, they've been consistent all year long, and for him to be at the age he's at with the amount of miles that he has on his body, how often he's talked about the pressure that they've put on him in every little thing that he does.
"At the level he's performing at, in my opinion, I think he's the MVP."
[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon and special guest David Lucas].
On the contrary, Lillard has earned James’ respect too. He has picked Dame when drafting for his All-Star team. He stated that he didn’t want to see Dame and the Portland Trail Blazers as the eight seed in round one of the Western Conference playoffs this season because he knows how dangerous Dame and CJ McCollum can be.
When asked about who would be the main player for the Lakers in this series against the Nuggets, Lillard knew exactly who it would be.
“I think LeBron,” Lillard said in an interview with ESPN when asked who would be the main player in this series. “Against us in the first game, it was like a filling out process, and then as the series went on, he became more of a problem for us. Then in the second round, it was the same. You see him do chase-down blocks and how dominant he was in that series.
“Going into this series, I think he was probably expecting to see the Clippers. Not that he’s looking down on Denver, but I think he’s looking at it like I can’t let this opportunity to get back to the Finals slip.
The Lakers have taken a 1-0 lead in this Western Conference Finals matchup.
On Friday, James and Anthony Davis each recorded a double-double in the 126-114 win over Denver. L.A. outscored Denver by 13 in both the second and third quarter. James dropped 15 points, 12 assists and six rebounds.
Throughout these playoffs, including their first round matchup against Portland winning that series 4-1, James is averaging 26.6 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 8.8 assists per game in the Playoffs.
Game two in this Western Conference Finals will tip-off at 4:30 PM (PT) this Sunday on TNT.
If Lillard’s prediction is correct, James is 11 days away from his 10th NBA Finals appearance.