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Blazers star Damian Lillard reacts to CJ McCollum rising to the occasion despite back injury

Blazers, Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum

Portland Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum has been playing with a bad back since the season restarted over two weeks ago. Nonetheless, the former Lehigh standout continues to rise to the occasion whenever the Blazers need him to do so.

Blazers superstar Damian Lillard spoke about McCollum playing through the injury and lauded his backcourt partner’s toughness and character:

“His back has been messed up the whole time since the first game, but he gave no excuses,” Lillard said, per Mark Medina of USA TODAY Sports. “He didn’t sit out or look for a way out. He just stayed with it. I know who I’m stepping on the court with, and there’s a reason I got the faith and trust in him that I do. People saw his character and who he truly is. He’s still hurt. But when it comes down to it, he rises to the occasion. That’s who he is and what I expect from him.”

McCollum’s numbers and efficiency have actually taken a hit in the seeding games. Through the eight-game restart, the Blazers guard averaged 18.3 points while shooting just 39.0 percent from the field, primarily because of his back issue.

Nonetheless, McCollum continues to fight through the pain and has proven his worth for the Blazers, especially through the last couple of season-saving games. In their thrilling play-in clinching victory over the Brooklyn Nets, McCollum drained a clutch jumper to give Portland a much-needed four-point cushion down the stretch. The lead proved to be enough as the Blazers outlasted the Nets to secure the eighth seed and the twice-to-beat advantage in the play-in game.

In the play-in against the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday, McCollum poured in 29 points and three 3-pointers while shooting 11-of-19 from the field to help the Blazers book their ticket to the playoffs.

Portland will certainly have a tall task ahead of them against the top-seeded Los Angeles Lakers in the first round. As they have shown all season, however, the Blazers will not go down without a fight.