Trans. Apr 19 12:34 ET (Apr 19 12:34 ET ) Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts expects guard Damian Lillard to make a quick adjustment to playoff basketball. Last season Lillard ran away with the league's Rookie of the Year race, leading all first-year players with a 19-point scoring average. This season, Lillard became the first player to participate in all five events connected to the All-Star game: the Future Stars game, the skills challenge, the 3-point shootout, the dunk contest and finally the All-Star game itself. ''I'm looking forward to it,'' Lillard said.
In the first round of the NBA playoffs, it makes sense that the matchup of the fourth and fifth seeds would have two fairly evenly matched teams. With Houston and Portland battling as the fourth and fifth seed, respectively, there are plenty of things that suggest this does bring together to fairly evenly matched teams. Houston has Dwight Howard and James Harden, while the Blazers has LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard. All four players were lottery picks, although the Rockets didn't draft either of their stars, rather acquired each over the last two off seasons.
TUALATIN, Ore. -- When the Portland Trail Blazers and Houston Rockets lock horns this weekend in the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs, its going to be a matchup-friendly affair. Dwight Howard versus Robin Lopez, James Harden up against Wesley Matthews, Chandler Parsons trying to outdo Nicolas Batum, super reserves Jeremy Lin going toe-to-toe with Mo Williams. But without a doubt, the most intriguing, intense matchup will be at the point guard position featuring Patrick Beverley and Damian Lillard.
After nearly six full months and 82 games for each of the NBA's 30 teams, the regular season now gives way to the postseason. With no clear favorite, a massively competitive Western Conference, and two big rivals atop the Eastern Conference, this year's playoffs figure to be worth the wait.
Without further ado, let's take a quick look at the first-round matchups, along with full schedules (all times Eastern and some quick analysis. (We'll publish in-depth previews for every series later this week.)
No. 1 San Antonio Spurs (62-20) vs. No. 8 Dallas Mavericks (49-33)
Game 1: Sunday, April 20, at San Antonio, 1:00PM on TNT
Game 2: Wednesday, April 23, at San Antonio, 8:00PM on NBA TV
Game 3: Saturday, April 26, at Dallas, 4:30PM on TNT
Game 4: Monday, April 28, at Dallas, 9:30PM on TNT
Game 5*: Wednesday, April 30, at San Antonio, TBD
Game 6*: Friday, May 2, at Dallas, TBD
Game 7*: Sunday, May 4, at San Antonio, TBD
The eternally effective Spurs bounced back from last June's heartbreaking NBA Finals loss to finish with the league's best record, due in large part to the strengths of head coach Gregg Popovich and the mainstay trio of Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, and Manu Ginobili. The Mavericks return to the playoffs after a one-year absence and boast Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis as offensive leaders. San Antonio swept the season series 4-0 and looks like the favorite this year, as well.
No. 4 Houston Rockets (54-28) vs. No. 5 Portland Trail Blazers (54-28)
Game 1: Sunday, April 20, at Houston, 9:30PM on TNT
Game 2: Wednesday, April 23, at Houston, 9:30PM on TNT
Game 3: Friday, April 25, at Portland, 10:30PM on ESPN
Game 4: Sunday, April 27, at Portland, 9:30PM on TNT
Game 5*: Wednesday, April 30, at Houston, TBD
Game 6*: Friday, May 2, at Portland, TBD
Game 7*: Sunday, May 4, at Houston, TBD
With All-Stars Dwight Howard and James Harden, plus a strong supporting cast that includes the multi-talented Chandler Parsons, the Rockets have a solid chance at representing the West in the NBA Finals. The Blazers cooled down after a scintillating start to the season, but All-Stars LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard present a formidable challenge for any opponent. Expect a high-scoring series from two of the NBA's most efficient offenses.
With the NBA postseason nearly upon us, it's time to sort out stars' legacies. While various statistical milestones and awards confer legitimacy on careers, championships tend to carry the most prestige of all. If a great player retires without a ring, he's going to be diminished in the eyes of many fans and basketball lifers.
This phenomenon just happens to be the subject of the newest ad from Foot Locker. In this 30-second spot, Portland Trail Blazers All-Star point guard Damian Lillard talks about picking up new Adidas gear at Foot Locker — maybe because he just signed a giant contract with the shoe and apparel giant — and says that he doesn't want to end up like "one of those guys that never won a ring." Unfortunately, Lillard seems to have forgotten that he invited ring-less NFL legends Barry Sanders and LaDainian Tomlinson to his house to watch the game. And when he tries to cover for himself, he ends up offending retired NBA stars Chris Webber and Karl Malone in the process. Check it out below:
As with most of Foot Locker's ads, the goal here isn't to argue for the product as much as to align the brand with a certain sort of knowing humor. In past spots featuring James Harden , Stephen Curry , and Anthony Davis , the strategy has seemingly been to trade on these young players' image as exciting future stars. In the process, the athletes have also been given some more attention. The same goes here for Lillard.
The difference here, I suppose, is that Adidas has now made a massive investment — potentially $100 million over 10 years — in Lillard's ability to become a high-profile national pitchman. As such, we're likely to see more such spots involving Lillard soon, at least until he becomes a big enough name to carry a commercial without the help of more established, older athletes. This ad isn't just a funny clip — it could be the point at which Lillard becomes a more national presence.
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Eric Freeman is a writer for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter!
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