Blazers' Damian Lillard, Rockets' Patrick Beverley exchange shots in media
It took overtime to settle a Sunday night game between the Blazers and Rockets in Houston, and even then Damian Lillard and Patrick Beverley weren't ready to call it quits after 53 minutes.
After Houston prevailed 118-113 thanks to James Harden's 41 points, Lillard took exception to Beverley's patented brand of physical, annoying defense.
"You've got somebody out there who wants to try to be bumping and doing little slick stuff," Lillard said, in post-game comments videotaped by CSNNW.com. "I'm not going to buy into it but I'm almost not going to let it fly. I'm going to say something. That's what he does. I don't really care for that. I'm not just going to let somebody be all in my chest and do all this extra stuff. That's not basketball. Everybody knows what he does to get under people's skin."
Later, he told the site: "It’s irritating that he’s doing all that little stuff like flopping, tying you up and all that for the whole game. But I don’t really get caught up in that. It’s whatever.”
Apparently believing that Lillard had stepped out of line with those comments, Beverley replied with a jab of his own on Monday.
"Damian Lillard whines," Beverley said, in an interview with Sports Talk 790 AM in Houston. "I'm not a big fan of that. I don't go out there and try to start fights with anybody. I go out there and play my game. That's what I do. I don't go out there and try to hack people. I don't go out there and do that. Prior to this game he was shooting 29 percent against me. That's a credit to our team defense and what we're doing. We don't go out there and try to hurt people, we don't go out there and try to hack people. We go out there and be aggressive on defense and that's what gets us stops."
Adding that he was "kind of offended" and "really bothered" by Lillard's comments, Beverley continued: "I don't care what he says. You're a grown man. You're a professional basketball player -- professional first. ... I played against all the other top point guards, all the other All-Star point guards, and it was nothing but praise. 'Patrick pushes me, Patrick plays hard, he forces me to better my game. Patrick does this.' He whines and says that I'm pushing and all that. I just wanted to get that off my chest."
The 23-year-old Lillard, who was selected to his first All-Star Game this season, finished with 21 points (on 7-for-13 shooting), four rebounds, four assists, two steals and seven turnovers against the Rockets. Beverley, in turn, posted 12 points (on 4-for-8 shooting), two rebounds and four steals.
At least two sequences during Sunday's action preceded the verbal back-and-forth between the two players. First: Beverley and Lillard exchanged words and light shoves after Beverley walked into Lillard while requesting a video review of an out-of-bounds call.
Second: Lillard fouled out when his off arm made minor contact with Beverley, who launched himself to the court to get the call.
Beverley, 25, has built a reputation as one of the league's scrappiest guards since making his debut for the Rockets last season. His tenacious on-ball defense is his calling card, and he's given Jrue Holiday fits, ripped Raymond Felton and blown up a Heat fast break, among many other standout individual moments in Houston. He is currently playing with a mask to protect a broken nose, a fact that seems almost inevitable given how hard he plays.
The 2009 second-round pick became a household name when he drew the wrath of Russell Westbrook after he lunged at the ball while the Thunder guard was calling timeout during the 2013 playoffs. Westbrook suffered a knee injury that would require season-ending surgery on the awkward play, and Beverley later received death threats from a frustrated Oklahoma City ball boy.
Back in February, DeMarcus Cousins was suspended by the NBA for punching Beverley in the stomach. The Kings center was apparently getting retaliation for a play from January in which Beverley received a technical foul for standing over Cousins while he was down on the court with an ankle injury.
Whether you think Beverley is chippy or cheap, there's no doubt that he's good at what he does. Beverley currently tops the Rockets with a +9.6 net rating, and Houston's defensive rating improves from 103.8 when he's off the court to 100.2 when he's on the court. Even if his individual numbers (9.8 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 40 percent shooting) aren't all that impressive, Houston is 31-13 (.705) when he starts and poised to claim homecourt advantage in the postseason.
The Blazers and Rockets have completed their regular season series -- with Houston winning 3-1 -- but the two teams could face each other in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs, as both Basketball-Reference.com and ESPN.com currently project Houston and Portland filling the No. 4 and No. 5 seeds, respectively. There's little doubt these comments will resurface come April should the two teams face off. For Lillard, a 2013 lottery pick who has yet to taste playoff intensity, there seems little doubt that Beverley's play and his subsequent talking will properly whet his appetite. Hat tip: ProBasketballTalk | Video via YouTube user theassociation | GIF via @DaneCarbaugh