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CJ McCollum on last 11 games: "I think we can improve on our late-game execution"

Yash Matange
FEATURED WRITER
Exclusive
211   //    22 Mar 2018, 15:28 IST

CJ M
CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard

The past couple of seasons, the Portland Trail Blazers have been among the best teams in the league in the second half of the regular season. This season was no different. Since the beginning of February, the Blazers are the fourth-best team in terms of record, winning 15 of their 20 games. It's not just the record, they rank sixth in the league in terms of net rating, averaging +4.9 per 100 possessions.

After a tough loss on Tuesday night at home to the West-leading Houston Rockets, a defeat that snapped their 13-game win streak, the Blazers held a Global Media Conference Call.

Here are the best questions and quotes from the Conference Call:

Q. My question is about your supporting cast. In the last seven to eight games, your supporting cast started playing much better, like they did last night. I'd like you to talk about them and how you've see them grow throughout the season?\

DAMIAN LILLARD: Anytime you get the kind of production that we're getting from everybody, not just a few guys, it will make you a better team. So they've been really consistent. We've gotten a lot from Ed [Davis], we've gotten a lot from Chief [Al-Farouq Aminu], Moe [Harkless], Pat [Connaughton], Zach [Collins], Evan [Turner], everybody who has come into the game has impacted the game in a positive way. 


Q. You just mentioned the Rockets and the Warriors. Compared to those other teams, your team seems to be flying a little bit under the radar. What is unique to the Trail Blazers compared to the other teams, and how might that help you to make more noise in the playoffs?

CJ McCOLLUM: I think defensively we've done a tremendous job being top 10 in defensive rating and defensive efficiency. And offensively, a lot of guys have stepped up and played well. So that's been the difference in this season from the first half of the season until now.


Q. You had great second halves the last couple of years. How do you get your team peaking at this time of the year, and what do you have to add to make some noise in the playoffs and win a couple of rounds?


Portland Trail Blazers v Brooklyn Nets
CJ
McColum
and Damian Lillard with head coach Terry Stotts

TERRY STOTTS (Head Coach): Well, I really think Damian Lillard is the main reason why we've been so strong in the second half of the season three years in a row. I think his leadership, his determination, his will leads the team in a good direction.


Q. You've won 13 of the last 14 games, but in the last 11 games of the season that you have left, what is the biggest aspect of the game that needs improving?

CJ MCCOLLUM: I think we can improve on our late-game execution. Figuring out ways to get stops and second-chance opportunities and being a little more sharp down the stretch in games.


Q. Do you think you are in the MVP conversation right now? 

DAMIAN LILLARD: I think so. I think with our team's success and my individual performance so far this season, I think I am. But I think we all know who is going to win the MVP. 


Q. Coming out of Bosnia, are there any athletes in Europe that you've looked up to growing up?

JUSUF NURKIC: Not really. I mean, my idol would be Kobe [Bryant], but he's not playing anymore. But I started playing basketball really late, when I was almost 15 years old, so I didn't have many idols growing up.


Cleveland Cavaliers v Los Angeles Lakers
Kobe Bryant and LeBron James

Q. Last week LeBron James said: Give me Lillard and see how appreciated he can be. What if LeBron comes to Portland? Would you guys be among the most dominant in the NBA?

DAMIAN LILLARD: I think so for sure. That would be great. That would be great. 


Q. How would you describe the team's overall mindset right now?

TERRY STOTTS (Head Coach): The motivation has always been just win the next game, with the standings in the Western Conference to do in the playoffs to make some noise other than just you need to be playing good basketball and be really connected as a team.


Q. We're happy that the NBA game in South Africa with Basketball Without Borders is very popular and something you have taken part in. What message do you have for young guys out here in Africa? What can you tell them in terms of improving and learning the game of basketball?

CJ MCCOLLUM: So my advice would be to enjoy being a kid, work hard, learn the fundamentals and take advantage of your time.

Q. Following up on the question asked, where do you think you rank in the MVP place? And do you think you get the recognition you deserve for playing so well, especially in the last 20 games?

DAMIAN LILLARD: I think -- I don't know. Probably top five, maybe. I mean, I don't really know what to say about the recognition part. It is what it is. 

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Yash Matange
FEATURED WRITER
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