Photo / Bruce Ely
Davis: 'We're the Most Dangerous Team' in the Playoffs
At this point, the Portland Trail Blazers are playing with house money.
As Terry Stotts reiterated time and time again from training camp onward, 2015-16 would be a season measured by growth and development on both the team and individual levels over the course of a seven-month campaign. But the young Blazers' improvement was accelerated, going from 11-20 to start the season to finishing 44-38 and clinching the fifth seed in the Western Conference where they'll face the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round (TICKETS).
After 61% of Portland's scoring output from a year ago departed Portland in the offseason, president of basketball operations Neil Olshey constructed a roster of young players that were previously under or mis-utilized by their former teams to get the Blazers where they are today.
Unlike other teams who were expected to be contenders this season, Portland has already defied goals and expectations. As a young and hungry squad with no pressure, that fact makes the Trail Blazers all the more dangerous in the postseason.
"I’ve been on some good teams, but I wasn’t a part of it," said Ed Davis, who averaged 4.9 minutes in 15 postseason games over two seasons with the Memphis Grizzlies. "With everybody writing us off… A team like us, we’re the most dangerous team [in the playoffs]. You don’t really wanna play against a team with nothing to lose, just don’t care what the outcome is. That’s us. We’re gonna be that team that’s gonna fight.
"We’re going the whole 48 minutes, gonna give it all we got."
Point guard Damian Lillard and center Mason Plumlee both lead the Trail Blazers with 16 postseason appearances, though Lillard's 41.7 minutes per game out weigh Plumlee's average of 10.2 minutes with the Brooklyn Nets. In total, eight Blazers have postseason appearances. Excluding Meyers Leonard, who will miss the postseason due to shoulder surgery, the Blazers have an average of 5.8 games of playoff experience. Along with rookies Pat Connaughton, Cliff Alexander and Luis Montero, six Blazers have never seen playoff action -- including veterans Brian Roberts and Maurice Harkless.
Harkless, for one, is relishing his first playoff experience -- especially in a physical matchup with the Clippers.
"Playoff basketball is physical, period,"the 22-year-old forward said. "I don’t know from being in it, but I know from seeing it, just watching it on TV and in-person: the physicality is at a-whole-nother level. I can imagine playing against the Clippers, it’s going to be very physical. I think we’re ready for that and I think we’re looking forward to it."