Following successful contested jump shots over Lillard, Westbrook would occasionally trot back on defense making the “rock the baby” gesture. For Lillard, it was not warranted, but he didn’t view it as crossing the line. “He was doing that on jump shots,” Lillard told Yahoo Sports. “That’s not when you’re supposed to rock the baby. You rock the baby after overpowering someone in the post. He had one layup in the post on me. Look it up. I’ll live with his jump shots. He wasn’t rocking no baby on me.”
After Westbrook scores on a player, he often gets animated, shouting and showing up opponents, and this series was no exception. “I’m not even paying attention to it,” Lillard told Yahoo Sports. “But when I do see it, that’s cool. He does it every game, so it doesn’t bother me. I don’t celebrate in someone’s face and try to disrespect my opponent. But if a team calls a timeout, I’ll go acknowledge the crowd and celebrate with my teammates as I’m going to the bench. I’m not going to say some wild s—. I think with him, he’s pounding his chest and talking s— and that’s what gets him going. That’s the difference between us.”
Westbrook was clearly overmatched in the series and often played into the Trail Blazers’ game plan by attempting so many jumpers. Lillard, who is perhaps the best point guard in the league not named Stephen Curry, said he wanted to dominate his position, but he never wanted to go outside of the team’s scheme to outplay Westbrook. “I took it personal from the jump, but not in the sense of a one-on-one battle with Russ,” he told Yahoo Sports. “Throughout the series, I never bought into the discussion of what people on the outside were saying about our so-called beef. It was never personal with me. I wasn’t going to come down and try to match him shot for shot. I was trying to win. And it’s not hard because it’s OK to embrace the battle. But I wasn’t emotional about it. It’s cool because I know the game is still going to be the game regardless of what he’s saying or doing. My team needs me to keep my cool and lead the right way. Nothing was going to get in the way of that.”
It was April 23, 2019, and Damian Lillard had just played one of the greatest games, and had hit one of the greatest shots in franchise history, but his mind was back to the quiet of April 2018. Back to the sweep, and the painful summer that ensued. Back to the embarrassment he felt. Back to the rage he felt inside. The rage was back now, only different. So as a city roared, and a franchise exhaled, a man walked through the gates of Legend and roared his arrival. “Yeah,” Lillard said he thought in the moment. “What you all have to say now?”