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Damian Lillard denies saying Warriors are ‘due’ to lose

The Western Conference Finals tip off with Tuesday’s Game 1, and Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard denies a report suggesting he said the Golden State Warriors are “due” for a crushing series loss.

Lillard is said to have made the comment causing the stir after the Blazers eliminated the Denver Nuggets on Sunday with a thrilling Game 7 victory.

He waited in the hallway for teammates Kanter and Turner to finish their news conferences, and a Nuggets ball boy looked at Lillard and offered some encouragement about the next round, about beating the Warriors, as originally reported by ESPN.

Lillard smiled and nodded his head.

“They’re due,” he said. “They’re due.”

In comments to reporters Monday, Lillard denied saying any such thing.

“I didn’t say that, for one,” Lillard said, via NBC Sports Northwest. “He was ear hustling on a conversation that I was having with someone and I wasn’t even talking about the Warriors. That’s unprofessional and I was disappointed by that just because you don’t try to ear hustle and then quote me as saying something that I didn’t say, especially when you’re standing right next to me and you could have just asked me.”

Lillard’s insistence that ESPN’s report, which incidentally came from respected veteran reporter Royce Young, is inaccurate obviously is a savvy move, as there’s no reason to motivate the Warriors with any so-called bulletin-board material.

There has been no shortage of speculation about what kind of fight the inexperienced Blazers can put up against a seasoned Warriors squad. There even was some unflattering chatter ahead of the season about the former’s suspect pedigree out of a superstar from the latter.

While neither the Trail Blazers nor the Warriors are expected to get caught up in such nonsense with a spot in the NBA Finals on the line, the storylines certainly add a layer of intrigue to what should be an outstanding series.