It has been nearly 20 years since the Portland Trail Blazers have made it to the Western Conference Finals. The drought is now over.
With the amount of star power that lies within the NBA currently, it’s easy to overlook and ignore some truly elite players. We see this in the media with household names like Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, and LeBron James often taking center stage.
However, Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum are not new names in the NBA stratosphere, they have been elite for a while and are ready to control their own destiny.
Dual scoring threat:
In the 2018-2019 NBA regular season there were a ton of dominant backcourts but none more lethal than Lillard and McCollum.
No other backcourt scored more points than Lillard and McCollum who finished fourth in PPG between any two teammates with 73.5.
Doing that as a duo in the regular season is great and can earn high praise but as the old adage goes, legends are created in the playoffs.
In this years postseason Lillard and McCollum have taken it to another level.
The duo finished fourth in scoring through the first round of the playoffs with 80.0 PPG. In the Trail Blazers’ grueling seven-game series against the Denver Nuggets, their superstars put up 77.9 PPG.
In the same Western Conference semifinals series vs. the Nuggets, Lillard and McCollum went on to average 47.3% of Portland’s total points scored. Here’s a small sample size of how lethal the two can be.
What makes them so dangerous?
Playing on the West Coast alongside All-Stars like LeBron, Curry, Durant, and James Harden, it becomes easy to be overshadowed.
Lillard and McCollum have the perfect blend of playmaking for others as well as for themselves.
Aside from their fully loaded offensive arsenal, both of Portland’s All-Star’s take turns in controlling the game. In previous seasons, Lillard is the closer and the player that has the ball in his hands in crucial situations (aka Dame Time).
Oddly enough, this year’s playoffs have featured a different twist as McCollum has taken on the closer role as he is currently leading all postseason players in total points scored in the fourth quarter with 95.
While Lillard sits a few spots behind him at fifth in terms of scoring in the fourth quarter, he does rank a little higher in third quarter postseason scoring where he is ranked third.
Lillard sets it up and McCollum finishes teams off.
A perfect example of this would be in game seven vs. Denver with the score at 96-95 in favor of the Trail Blazers.
The Trail Blazers had a chance to extend their lead and force Denver into an uncomfortable three-point hole.
McCollum is isolated on Torrey Craig and gets to his spot from the free-throw line and rises up to bury the shot as calmly as possible. Cold-blooded.
— NBA (@NBA) May 13, 2019
The ultimate test:
Now that Portland faces the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals, the next challenge of proving their dominance will come in the form of taking down the Splash Brothers in Curry and Thompson.
It may not be an easy task to outperform the three-time NBA champion backcourt in the playoffs, but if anybody can do it is Lillard and McCollum.