By ANNE M. PETERSON
2014-04-20 03:01 AM
PORTLAND, Oregon (AP) -- Portland Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts expects guard Damian Lillard to make a quick adjustment to the NBA playoffs.
"I think he'll be a seasoned veteran five minutes into Game 1," Stotts said.
The second-year starter has always played beyond his years.
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. He also averaged 6.1 assists and 3.1 rebounds, playing in all 82 games.
He broke Stephen Curry's rookie record for 3-pointers in a season, finishing with 185, and became just the third NBA rookie with at least 1,500 points and 500 assists, following Oscar Robertson and Allen Iverson.
And he swept all six of the league's rookie of the month awards.
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.
And now he's ready to test himself in the playoffs.
"I'm looking forward to it," Lillard said. "I'm just going to try and not put too much pressure on the fact that it's my first playoff game, or that we're on the road, or all those other things. I'm just going to try and play like it's another basketball game."
The Blazers open their first-round series against the Rockets on Sunday in Houston.
Portland won 54 games this season and returns to the playoffs after a two-year absence. The Blazers won their final five games of the regular season and nine of their last 10.
The Rockets also won 54 games this season, with 33 victories at home to rank fourth in the league.
Last season Lillard led the league with 3,167 minutes, but this season he's played a slightly more reasonable 2,937 -- still most on the team -- because the Blazers acquired veteran point guard Mo Williams in the offseason to take some of the load off Lillard.
"Last season people kept asking me about the rookie wall," Stotts said. "He never hit the rookie wall."
Always poised, Lillard was diplomatic when discussing the Rockets. Houston took the season series against the Blazers 3-1. In a game on March 9, Lillard and Rockets guard Patrick Beverley jawed on the court then continued with the barbs following Houston's 118-113 win in overtime. Lillard was sent to the bench in the extra period after an offensive foul on Beverley that some questioned.
"I'm not really going to go into individual matchups and stuff like that," Lillard said.
Beverley downplayed their history, too.
"There's no personal battles at all," he said. "It's the Houston Rockets versus the Portland Trail Blazers, not Patrick Beverley versus Damian Lillard."