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Blazers’ Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum admit they have matured after last 2 early playoff exits

Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum

The Portland Trail Blazers have endured relentless humiliation after being not only upset, but swept by a lower-seeded opponent in the first round of the 2018 playoffs, following another sweep, this time at the hands of the top-seeded Golden State Warriors in 2017.

The backcourt of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum are keenly aware of the outside perception, but know it has all been for the better of this team, even after a tough-to-swallow loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 3 of their first round series.

“We’re a lot more mature than we were in past years,” McCollum said, according to ESPN’s Royce Young. “We can handle adversity. We understood what we wanted to accomplish tonight and we didn’t want anything to get in the way. Multiple times we had discussions about not saying anything to anyone. If they don’t have a black-and-gray jersey on, don’t talk to him. Talk to our team. Don’t talk to the refs, don’t talk to the other team. Execute our game plan and let’s get out of here with the win.”

The Blazers did just that, putting their chin down and taking the Thunder’s best strike, one that wouldn’t prove enough, as Portland took home a 111-98 win on the road to go up 3-1 in the series.

“We don’t focus on doubters, we focus on ourselves,” said Lillard. “We accept the responsibility of our past two playoff performances and we moved on. I think that’s one of the biggest and one of the best things that we did for ourselves, was not hold on to it. We moved on and we’re having a better run now. We just got to finish it.”

Portland has yet to land the haymaker on this series, but they will have the opportunity to do so at home, in front of their fans at the Moda Center, moving onto the second round since a 4-2 win over the L.A. Clippers in 2016, hoping to carve their way to the NBA Finals for the first time since 1992.