Trail Blazers vs Mavericks Saturday, 04/16/11 AT 06:30PM

McMillan Tells Players To 'Seize The Moment'

04/15/11
  1. Written by: ShalamarClark  / avg. rating: 5.0



    Seven years have past since the Portland Trail Blazers and the Dallas Mavericks have kicked off the NBA Playoffs with a first-round bid.

    In 2003, the Mavericks and the Trail Blazers held identical seeding in the postseason. Dallas went in No. 3 and Portland took the No. 6 spot. It took seven matches to name a winner. 

    Unfortunately for the Trail Blazers, the Mavericks were the victors of the 4-3 series. Portland watched as Dallas pushed through Sacramento in the semifinals to earn a Western Conference Finals’ matchup with San Antonio before being eliminated 4-2.

    In the 2011 Playoffs, everything can change.

    “You have to seize the moment,” said Trail Blazers’ Head Coach Nate McMillan. “You just don’t know if you’ll get this opportunity again.”

    McMillan, who was named the NBA Western Conference Coach of the Month for April, continued by stating, “In life, you don’t get many opportunities to do something special. We have this opportunity…let’s seize it and try to take advantage of it.”

    It will be the fourth time since 1985 that the Trail Blazers and the Mavericks headline a round-one card, beginning with a 6:30 PM tipoff on Saturday at the American Airlines Center.

    “The good thing about us playing Dallas is that we just seen them twice here recently,” said McMillan. “We have a good feel for what they want to do.”

    Throughout the regular season, McMillan preached the one-game-at-a-time approach to his players. Looking at Portland’s success, finishing 48-34 despite a handful of injuries to key players, it worked. But now that the playoffs are here, it becomes a brand new game.

    “The level of play goes up,” said McMillan. “The game is officiated a little different. They allow you to play more.”

    McMillan also said that one of the biggest differences between the regular season and playoffs is that, “every possession becomes important.”

    “They use zone and we use zone to try and disrupt rhythm,” said McMillan. “That’s where the game will go as far as being physical in the playoffs. That’s just expected.”

    When McMillan speaks of the physicality of the game, he’s also letting his players know that they will be grabbed, held and roughed up more than normal without getting a whistle blown.

    “You have to keep a calm state of mind through all of that,” said McMillan. “Really what you will see is fourth-quarter basketball for four quarters.” 

    But the Trail Blazers will have to overcome more than just the Mavericks team itself in Game 1 and 2. They will also have to deal with over 19-thousand fans cheering against them. 

    The Trail Blazers and Mavericks split the regular-season series 2-2, with 
    home-court advantage playing a vital role for the success of both teams. Neither team won on the opposing team’s court this season. 

    Portland landed in the sixth spot for its second consecutive year. And if the Trail Blazers learned anything from last years’ 4-2 defeat to the Phoenix Suns, it should be the importance of winning on the road. 

    “Game 1 is important,” said McMillan. “They all are. But I’ve some situations where you’ve gotten Game 2. I think most peoples would say ‘you want to get a game,’ because then you get home-court advantage...Game 1 would be great, but if you get Game 2 and you’re able to split, its just as good.” 

    Portland and Dallas both have a lot to play for and deep down, they both have something to prove. The Mavericks, who are assembled with a fleet of veteran players, have been dismissed in the first round in three of the last four years. 

    “Experience and they do have home-court advantage,” said McMillan of Dallas’ biggest advantage. “They are a big team that’s long. They’ve been together for a number of year and even some of these guys played in the finals a few years ago.”

    “Dirk [Nowitzki] is going to be the guy they play through a lot, and [Jason] Terry,” said McMillan. “You have to be physical with this group. But I think it starts with Jason Kidd. Kidd normally tries to get the game at the tempo they want and its important that we control that tempo and not allow these guys to get out and get anything easy.”

    If Portland can handle business, the team can make a second-round appearance for the first time since 2000, when the Trail Blazers defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves 3-1.

    “This is what you play for,” said McMillan. “This is what its all about to have to opportunity to play postseason basketball where you’re one of the best teams that’s left and having the opportunity to play for a championship. That what we’re trying to reach, that’s our goal at the start of the season is to get here. Now we’re here. Now the next goal is to get out of the first round.”

    McMillan stated confidently that, “We’re ready to go.” He understands the challenge set in front of his team and himself. “We don’t fear [Dallas]. We respect them, but we also feel we can win.”

    “Let’s understand that you don’t get many of these,” said McMillan. “We have an opportunity. We have guys that are healthy, we’ve been here before, we’ve gone through it and we get this opportunity again.”

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