Thursday, March 26, 2009

Big And Tough

The idea of the "big game" has become somewhat of a running joke between Nate McMillan and the media. Time and time again, McMillan has been asked about a particular game being "bigger" than the rest, and without fail, the same refrain that "every game is big" finds it's way out of Coach's mouth.

Until yesterday.

After yesterday's practice at the Rose Garden, McMillan finally let himself admit that tonight's game against the Suns is enormous in terms of each team's playoff probabilities.

"I think this is definitely one of those games where it's very important," said McMillan. "We know that. And they all are big, but (the Suns) are definitely chasing us and they're playing good basketball. We're going to have to be sharp."

And while sharpness is important, so too is toughness. And the Suns are tough. They don't play the grind it out, defense first style of play that many associate with grizzled veteran teams, but it hardly matters. They've got the experience and the mental toughness that goes along with it.

But can the Trail Blazers match that toughness? According to McMillan, we'll know soon enough.

"I think the remaining weeks of the season will show us a lot about ourselves, because we've done some good things to get to this point," said McMillan. "But it's really just the beginning. For us, we have to go down the stretch and continue to win.

"We still have to wins games. Coming off that five-game road trip with a winning record, that was good for us. Now we've got a home stretch that's important against some teams that are fighting for playoff spots. The mental toughness that we're talking about, we'll see that. We'll see where we are in the next week or so."

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