Make no mistake, the Houston-Portland series WILL be about Lillard vs. Beverley

Make no mistake, the Houston-Portland series WILL be about Lillard vs. Beverley
April 16, 2014, 9:00 am
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Lillard calls Beverley "a pest" on defense

Damian Lillard said something about Patrick Beverley. Patrick Beverley said something about Damian Lillard. The two have already scuffled enough on the court to reveal some bad blood between them.

And as far as I'm concerned that's just about the best way I know to start a playoff series -- in any sport. I see enough pre-game hugs and fraternizing between teams in all sports these days. Enough giggles between opponents during a game, too.

But now it's the playoffs and in case some of the young Trail Blazers haven't heard about it yet, it's time to GET IT ON.

And there's no better way to do that than to establish right away some vitriol between key players -- and all the better that they're point guards. Damian Lillard, always mindful of saying the right thing, said this yesterday:

“Yeah, I want to win the matchup,” Lillard said. “I think my team has a better chance if I’m able to play well against him. But I’m not going in thinking I have to outplay him. I have to go out there and be myself. That’s it. He’s one of the toughest defender out there. It’ll be fun.”

He's got most of that right with one major exception. His team DOES have a better chance -- much better, in fact -- if he plays well against Beverley. But -- and I believe this is a key to the series -- Lillard really must outplay Beverley if Portland is going to upset the Rockets. It's a must. This is Damian Lillard here -- an all-star with a legit chance to be on the USA national team this summer. Against Patrick Beverley, a pretty good defender and a tough guy, agreed. But he's also a player whose pro basketball experience started in the Ukraine, then continued through Greece and Russia before he was waived after a summer league and training camp stint with the Miami Heat. He signed with the Houston Rockets, who shipped him off to the D-League Rio Grande Vipers.

Nothing against Beverley, who has worked hard battling through obscurity to earn a starting spot in the NBA, but he's no Damian Lillard. Beverley shot 41.1 percent from the field this season, 35.7 percent from three-point range, averaged 10.2 points, 2.7 assists and he's returning to the lineup after a late-season torn meniscus.

Damian Lillard should outplay Beverley. I think he WILL outplay Beverley. But if he doesn't, it's going to be very difficult for Portland to get deep into that series.