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Portland sees themselves as a team of destiny

Trail Blazers

Many believed the Portland Trail Blazers would be left on the outside looking in at the Western Conference playoffs coming into 2018-19. After Jusuf Nurkic suffered a devastating season-ending injury in late March, even more assumed that Portland’s chances of winning a first-round series went from unlikely to impossible. At every opportunity, though, the Blazers continue proving the masses wrong – and fate is apparently one of the reasons why.

Following his team’s epic come-from-behind victory over the Denver Nuggets in Game 7 of the Western Conference Semifinals on Sunday, Damian Lillard claimed it was inevitable that past struggles would help the Blazers climb to new heights this postseason.

“After last season, I said there is no way our team — operating the way we operate … who works the way we work … and do stuff the way we do stuff — goes and does something like that (get swept), without there being a reward for it after that,” he said, per The Athletic’s Jason Quick. “There was no way.”

Backup big man Meyers Leonard went one step further.

“Hell yes it’s destiny,” he said. “But we aren’t done yet… I mean, I was talking to Dame: this is seven years in the making. Look at everything that has happened, and here we are.”

Forward Moe Harkless even invoked a higher power as justification behind Portland’s ongoing playoff run.

“I believe it’s all God’s plan,” he said. “I couldn’t sleep last night. I had a funny feeling. I just knew we were going to win this game. Dame has been telling me since Game 3: ‘We gonna win in 7.’ And he was right.”

There’s no reason to beat around the bush here: The Blazers had a favorable draw en route to the Western Conference Finals, avoiding both the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets. It also goes without saying that they are decided underdogs against the two-time defending champions, even as Kevin Durant is poised to miss at least the first two games against Portland as he recovers from a calf strain.

Still, what the Blazers have accomplished in beating the Nuggets and Oklahoma City Thunder is worthy of celebration nonetheless – and as they tell it, something everyone in the locker room saw coming.