If the Portland Trail Blazers are going to extend their playoff streak to seven years in a row, they’ve got to get every win they can. And getting those wins starts with their defensive effort. Damian Lillard is leading that charge.
Lillard, along with teammate Trevor Ariza and head coach Terry Stotts, talked about the need to stay locked in, especially on defense.
Ariza said one of the keys to the Blazers win on Tuesday night was better on-court communication. The veteran forward went on to say “Every game is a must-win”.
On the importance of playing good defense, Lillard echoed Ariza saying “It’s the only chance we’ve got. This is it. It’s our final opportunity to make a push. We always find a way offensively, but it’s not going to happen if we don’t come with it defensively.”
Stotts said “We’ve got Memphis twice. We’ve got to beat them twice. We need the tie-breaker and we need to catch them. That’s high importance.”
With their victory on Tuesday, combined with the Memphis Grizzlies home loss to the Orlando Magic, Portland closed to within 3.5 games of the eighth spot in the Western Conference. The Trail Blazers are now in a virtual tie with the New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings, just ahead of the San Antonio Spurs, as all four teams try to chase down the Grizzlies.
According to Tankathon, Memphis has the NBA’s third-hardest schedule to close the season. Portland and San Antonio check in tied for 22nd, with Sacramento 19th. New Orleans has a major advantage, as they have the league’s easiest closing schedule.
The Grizzlies may still have a healthy lead for the final playoff spot in the West, but the race is far from over.