Stotts: Any Team Could Win West, Reach NBA Finals

The Warriors are the favorites to reach the Finals, but several teams – including Portland – might have something to say about that

Reiter Than You
March 12, 2019 - 2:49 pm

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The Golden State Warriors (45-21) are the betting favorites to win the West for the fifth year in a row, but several teams – including the Rockets (42-25), Thunder (41-26) and, yes, the Trail Blazers (40-26) – might have something to say about that.

“I think there are a lot of teams that can come out of the West,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said on Reiter Than You. “I think the West is extremely competitive, and on a given night – or a given series – there are a lot of teams that can win a series against anybody in the West. The key is you have to win three series to get to the Finals.”

Indeed, and while Warriors/Cavs was a foregone conclusion in recent years, this season feels different. It feels more wide open.

“I think the top four teams in the East are extremely competitive, and any one of those teams could come out of the East,” Stotts said. “I think you’re looking at many teams. Obviously (there are teams) like the Warriors that you kind of anticipate being there. But I really think that it could come down to one of eight to 10 teams, really.”

Stotts is closing in on his sixth consecutive playoff berth with the Blazers. They have won two first-round series during that stretch; two other times, they ran into the Warriors.

Ultimately, what does it takes to win in the playoffs?

“To win in the playoffs, sometimes it depends on the matchups,” he said. “You got to play well at both ends. If you can protect home court, that hurt last year. Obviously we had home court and didn’t protect that. But it really depends on the matchup and what that matchup poses – the problems and the way you’re able to take advantage of your strengths and win a series. 

“I don’t know if there’s necessarily one thing,” Stotts continued, “but to win a seven-game series, it takes a lot of mental focus and mental strength to fight through. You’re going to lose some games. The momentum shifts of series, who has momentum changes with every win, with every loss. So it’s as much about your mental approach as your X’s and O’s and your physical approach.”

The Blazers, of course, have a fighting chance in any game – or series – thanks to Damian Lillard, who is averaging 26.1 points and 6.4 assists this season. Stotts has coached Lillard since his rookie season in 2012, when Lillard averaged a league-high 38.6 minutes per game.

“We overachieved that year,” Stotts said. “I just think his approach to the game and his attitude, his character, really shone through throughout that season. Obviously he’s had highlight games. He’s had big-time moments along the way. But I think his body of work – what he demonstrates day in and day out, the way he competed in practice as a young player – there wasn’t one moment. You could just see every day how special he was.”