Appreciating each other's finer points

Parker was pretty unstoppable himself against the Mavericks, scoring 32 points in the closeout game while averaging 19.9 points and 4.7 assists for the series. The 6-3 Parker shot 47.2 percent against the Mavs, but was even better inside. Nearly half of his made field goals in the series (28 of 58) came less than 5 feet from the hoop, according to And when he got that close, he rarely missed, converting 66.7 percent of his attempts (28 of 42) from that distance.

It is that skill set of Parker's, the ability to thrive near the rim despite all the taller guys in front of him there to protect it, that Lillard wants to replicate.

"The biggest thing I tried to take was his game in the paint," Lillard said. "With him not being the most athletic guy and going in there and finishing over those people, he's still crafty enough to finish in the paint over these huge, big guys in the paint. That's floaters and reverse layups and different finishes. I'm a little more of an athletic type of point guard where I like to challenge the bigs and try to go over the top of him. So, for me, it was just trying to adapt my game where I can do the things he can do and do the things that a more athletic point guard can do."

The first time Parker played in the playoffs as a 19-year-old, it was against Payton's Seattle SuperSonics. He got the best of the 33-year-old Payton at the time, averaging 17.2 points on 50 percent shooting, 3.6 rebounds and 2.6 assists to Payton's 22.2 points on 42.5 percent shooting, 8.6 rebounds and 5.8 assists as the Spurs won in five games.

Now the 31-year-old Parker recognizes what the 23-year-old Lillard will be trying to accomplish against him.

"I know Damian, he watched a lot of tapes of me when he was growing up," Parker said. "That's what I heard. I know he's going to be very motivated to play against me like I was when I played against Gary Payton. Gary Payton was one of my favorite players growing up so I was very motivated when I played against him in my first playoffs. So, I know that feeling and I'll have to match that energy."

While they will be competitors in the second round, Parker and Lillard were each other's champions on the eve of their series opener.

"I feel like he's in the top five best point guards in the NBA," Parker said of Lillard. "Definitely one of the best."

Lillard was just as effusive in his praise of Parker.

"TP is a perennial All-Star," Lillard said. "He's a great player. He's crafty, fast. He can finish in the paint. Great midrange jumper. I think how effective he is off screens and in transition makes him really tough. Having shooters around him, that doesn't make it any easier. He's a great player."

However, as it says in the old NBA postseason marketing campaign, "There can only be one," that was running back when Lillard first started watching Parker way back when, one of the point guards is going to be watching the other play in the Western Conference finals from home after being knocked out.

"It's kind of funny that I'm playing against him in a playoff series," said Lillard. "I got all the respect in the world for him and what he's been able to accomplish in San Antonio. It's going to be an exciting matchup."

Parker echoed much of the same.

"He's going to be ready to go and he's not afraid of anything," Parker said. "For his age and only in his second year, he looks like a veteran. A little bit like me when I first came in at 19, 20. I was not scared of anything. I loved the big games and big challenges and I'm sure he's the same way."

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