Trail Blazers

How Blazers pushed through 'negativity' to earn rest and Nuggets in 1st Round

Trail Blazers
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The matchup is set.

After the Portland Trail Blazers’ 132-116 drubbing of the Denver Nuggets Sunday, the Blazers finished the season 42-30. 

And with the Thunder’s help in defeating the Clippers, Portland is now going to see these Denver Nuggets in the three-six seed matchup. 

While securing the No. 6 spot out West, the Blazers reflected on what a season it has been -- with plenty of ups and maybe even more downs.  

After playing 35 games over the course of 72 days in the first half of the season followed by 37 games over 67 days, the Blazers dealt with their fair share of adversity. 

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They also endured plenty of noise from the outside. 

As Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts noted postgame:

 

This is nine seasons, and this one might be one of the bigger accomplishments of the regular season.

Terry Stotts

“I thought what we accomplished now is pretty gratifying because it was not an easy season,” Stotts added. “I think there was a lot of negativity out there and we persevered through that.”

Not to mention the daily COVID-19 tests compounded with the fact that they lost CJ McCollum to a foot injury for a third of the season, while Jusuf Nurkic missed half the season with a broken wrist followed by a calf strain. And Zach Collins never even saw the court due to injury.

Even though all of that, the Blazers' belief in each other never wavered. 

“It’s been a hectic year,” McCollum recalled. “Obviously, I was hurt. I missed a third of the season. Nurk missed a third of the season."

We still found a way to make the playoffs for the eighth straight year. I think that’s a testament to our organization, a testament to our players, and our coaching staff.

CJ McCollum

And then there was the five-game losing streak in mid-April when it seemed like the Blazers were destined for the play-in tournament. 

For us losing five or six straight and the world acting like it’s coming to an end, I think we did a pretty good job of turning things around and playing some of our better basketball heading into the postseason.

CJ McCollum 

“I think we overachieved by anybody’s standards at the beginning of the season,” Coach Stotts added. “I don’t think anybody had us winning 42 games. So it was a very good regular season, all said and done. Now we’re looking towards the playoffs.” 

But as Lillard agreed with his coach and his backcourt mate that they’ve overcome a lot this season, he couldn’t help but think about how this team is in a great spot heading into the First Round.  

I don’t remember a time of us being in this type of groove in this fashion going into the postseason in all of those other seasons.

Damian Lillard

The NBA has yet to release schedules for any of the First Round series with the Play-In Tournament tipping off on Wednesday.

But there’s no doubt that the Blazers are ready to face the Nuggets in the playoffs for the second time in three seasons.