Portland Trail Blazers forward Carmelo Anthony has dropped a major praise on the team's starting guard Damian Lillard, calling the five-time NBA All Star the "top guy" he has ever played with. The Trail Blazers arrived to the bubble in Orlando with slim chances of making the playoffs but Lillard's heroics led the team to clinching the final spot of the Western Conference.
Lillard, who was recruiting Anthony for years to come to Portland, got his wish when the team decided to give the 2013 NBA Scoring Champion a shot. Lillard, who was named the NBA Seeding Games MVP, scored 51 points against the Philadelphia 76ers, 61 points against the Dallas Mavericks and 42 points against the Brooklyn Nets in the final three seeding games.
Lillard then dropped 31 points against the Memphis Grizzlies in the first-ever NBA play-in game to help the Blazers clinch a first round playoff meeting against the Los Angeles Lakers. "Dame's at the top for me," Anthony told Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.
"I've never played with someone who lifted his team on the court with his play and as a leader. He genuinely cares for his teammates. What he's been able to do is amazing. He's the top guy I've played with.
... I've played with some great players, but the way Dame elevates his game and others, he's at the top."
Lillard confident in his team's chances against the Lakers
The first-seeded Lakers are the top favorite to win it all this year but Lillard feels his the Trail Blazers have a shot at upsetting the 16-time NBA champions.
"I've been seeing everybody saying what we're gonna do to the Lakers," Lillard said, per ESPN. "But the Lakers, they're the No. 1 seed in the West for a reason. They've got the best player in the world on their team.
"But at the same time, we didn't fight as hard as we fought in the bubble to just say, 'All right, we're the eighth seed,' and go out here and just get beat up on. We feel like we have a chance in a series against anybody in this league.
We feel like we've got a chance in this series. And that's how we're gonna approach it. "We respect them for who they are, and we have enough belief in ourselves to go into it feeling like we can win the series. I think it's that simple,"