Saturday, March 28, 2009

Staying Up To Avoid A Letdown

I have no idea if there is such a thing as a “letdown game,” but if there is, tonight’s tilt against the Memphis Grizzlies would probably qualify, for a few reasons.

The Trail Blazers are coming off a huge win, both in terms of score differential and playoff positioning. Beating the Suns by twenty points while reducing the magic number to six went a long way toward shoring up a spot in the postseason. Every game holds significance at this point, but as Nate McMillan aptly described after Thursday’s win, beating Phoenix was truly a “two for one.”

And then there’s the issue of the Grizzlies. Memphis has the fifth-worst record in the NBA. They’ve won eight games since the start of the new year. They’re playing for pride and next season at this point.

So it’s it possible that, coming off the Phoenix game, Portland enters tonight’s contest “letdown”? Maybe there’s a feeling in the locker room that the Trail Blazers have reached a point where they can simply take to the Rose Garden floor and win games like tonight’s without having to bring their best.

Does such a thing happen this late in the season? I don’t have the answer to that question, but head coach Nate McMillan has already thought of the solution.

“You avoid (a letdown) by just talking about improving,” said McMillan. “Trying to be even better than we were (against Phoenix), building off of some of the things we did (on Thursday) on both ends of the floor.

“So don’t look at this team’s record. They have some players -- some young players --that can play. For us, we’re still in a race, so our approach has to be business. We come out and we play this game with that sense of urgency we came out with (Thursday night).”

I’m guessing Coach McMillan will mention something to that effect in his pregame speech to the team tonight. We’ll know soon enough whether that message sunk in.

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