The Portland Trail Blazers have to feel like they let a golden opportunity to slip away during Game 1 of their series against the Dallas Mavericks. Portland had a six point lead late in the game only to see Dirk Nowitzki rattle off 12 consecutive points during the decisive spurt. One thing is clear — this series is going to be a rough and tumble affair with plenty of fouls, close games, and high emotions. Portland head coach Nate McMillan let his emotions get the best of him, drawing a $35,000 fine for complaints about officiating. Buckle up, the fun is just beginning. Game 2 is Tuesday night at American Airlines Arena in Dallas.
McMillan joined 95.5 The Game in Portland to talk about standing up for his players to the refs late in Sunday’s Game 1 loss, what he took away from the game film, how he tries to take advantage of the extra time between games during the playoffs to study tape, the Blazers’ need to get out in transition earlier in games than they did in Game 1, if he agrees that Portland is the more physical team in this series, how he doesn’t believe that the Blazers lack enough experience to beat the veteran Mavs, the decision to not play Marcus Camby in crunch time, and Brandon Roy still being a guy that he will lean on when the matchups are right despite him not being the same type of explosive scorer and threat that he once was.
Does he feel like it matters that he stood up for his players:
“Well it just came down a few hours ago, so I haven’t seen the guys yet. I’ll see them tomorrow. For us, and what I’ve said to our guys, you’re going to have situations where there are bad calls, and we talk about keeping a calm head and playing through some things. For me, I want to move on from this issue and get ready for tomorrow’s game. Our guys, we can’t be concerned about the officiating. Those guys work hard and it’s a tough job. You have to play through some things. For us, as I tell them to move on, I must move on.”
On what he and his team took away from the game film, particularly down the stretch in the fourth quarter:
“Well I think one thing was our transition. We were able to get our transition going in the fourth quarter. We had zero fast break points in the first half. We talked about that, one of the things we talked about wanting to do was push the ball down. In every game against Dallas this season, getting out early running has allowed us to score and get matchups that are favorable to us. In the first half we didn’t get that; the second half I thought we did a little better job. We did an even better job in the fourth quarter where we finished with 13 fast break points, but everything came in the second half. So we got to the tempo we wanted in that fourth quarter, we didn’t make some plays, we didn’t make some shots. We had some matchups that we wanted going down the stretch and then they got in the penalty and basically able were to get to the free throw line and get some momentum back. But I thought we did some good things in the fourth quarter.”
If he shows more film during the playoffs with the extra time between games:
“No, we’ve always used a lot of film to show our guys good things that we do, as well as things that we need to correct. So I’m a guy that feels the tape doesn’t lie and it will show you what you’re doing. We showed our guys the tape, so we watch a lot of film throughout the year. And certainly when you have an opportunity, you have two days off, you want to review and show some things because a lot of times out on the floor, you may think you are doing some things and when you see the tape, you see that you weren’t close to doing some of the things that you need to do out there. And I thought that is what happened with us defensively. We didn’t come with that sense of urgency that we talked about at this time as needed — the ball pressure, controlling the ball, not allowing it to get into the paint. I thought Jason Kidd had uncontested three point shots, and when a guy makes one or two, no matter who that guy is or what he’s shooting, you’ve got to get closer to him. And we didn’t do a good job of doing that.”
If he would agree that the Blazers are the more physical team in this series:
“That’s one of the things I think has been in the media — that we were physical. And last night we got called for a lot of fouls. I think we need to be even more aggressive, you know, do a better job of controlling the ball. Dallas doesn’t really play in the paint. A lot of what they do comes on the perimeter. Their scorers or their scoring normally comes from isolations at the free throw line, sometimes on the wing, mainly penetration or double teams from Dirk. So they’re not a team that looks to attack or attacks the basket a lot. So what we call bodying the cuts, we need to do a better job of doing that and not allowing Terry and Dirk to just run freely without being touched. I think at times we play physical, but I think we can and should be even more physical than we’re playing.”
On the vast disparity in experience between the two clubs, and if he thinks his club has enough experience to get by the veteran Mavs:
“I think we have enough. We’ve been here before, and certainly our main guys have been here in the playoffs before. So this is a time where you work all season long to play for this moment. All the things that you’ve done during the regular season, you should be better at this time of the year. And it really doesn’t make a huge amount of difference as far as the experience this time of the year. You look at Derrick Rose for Chicago, he’s playing great basketball; you look at Kevin Durant the other night, he’s playing great basketball. So it doesn’t make a huge difference this time of the year, and our guys have been here before and know what to expect. So you should be able to prepare yourself for this moment.”
On the decision to not play Marcus Camby late in the fourth quarter:
“Well that smaller unit had basically gotten us the lead. We got some momentum and were able to get out in transition. Late in the game we talked about going with Camby probably that last minute when we were down four, and I decided to stay with that group. We had two timeouts, I felt like we get a stop, I want to go and save the two 20s that I had. That was an opportunity where we could have gotten him in the game probably. But I thought that small unit was working for us. We had a six point lead late in that ballgame. We had matchups that we could go to on the offensive end of the floor and I thought defensively we could defend them. So that’s the group that we played a lot and decided to stay with it.”
On Brandon Roy playing so many minutes and if he thinks Roy will still provide big shots for the Blazers at some point this series:
“Well you have matchups, and in our last game in Portland we had matchups and we end up finishing that game with Rudy and Brandon on the floor because of the matchups and because of Brandon’s ability to score. Really the playoffs are about trying to take advantage of matchups, and during the fourth quarter of last night going down the stretch, I thought that lineup with Miller, Brandon, Nicolas, Gerald Wallace and LaMarcus, we had matchups we could go to. And one of the matchups we could go to was Jason Terry against Brandon Roy. They tried to switch Terry to Nicholas, we immediately went to that matchup and got four points out of that. LaMarcus or Gerald Wallace, Nic against Dirk Nowitzki — they tried to hide those guys and move them around, and we were able to take advantage of some of those matchups. Brandon missed some shots last night. But that matchup with Brandon and Jason Terry, or Barea and Andre Miller, you will take those matchups. And when we get those matchups and they try to cover us with single coverage, our guys have to score. And last night at times we didn’t finish the play.”