Postgame quotes: Blazers 110, Timberwolves 91

Postgame quotes following the Portland Trail Blazers’ 110-91 road victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday night at the Target Center.

Trail Blazers Head Coach Nate McMillan
Thoughts on Batum – “Hey, if he shoots the ball like that he’s going to be tough to keep off the floor, his shot has certainly improved this year and he’s taking it with confidence, we’re going to need that because he’s going to get that opportunity with teams double teaming and leaving him open and you know, he’s shot the ball well since returning. Defensively he’s been pretty good and he’s starting to get a rhythm out there, its good to see.”
Did you take advantage of the lead in the 2nd to rest players? – “We wanted to rest all of our guys as much as possible and you know we started to play I thought, get passive at the start of the quarter and we put a couple of guys back in. We’ve been there, and not that we thought we were going to lose this lead, we’re not going to allow that type of play. I thought our guys were about business tonight after losing last night’s game, in coming out right from the start and playing good basketball.”
Why does the team play well on the 2nd night of back to backs? – “I would like t know the record of what we did the night before, did we win or lose? We’ve watched a lot of film of when we’ve lost games in situations like this. Our guys have responded, that’s a mental challenge. Normally you are fatigued, for us its our 4th game in 5 nights. Its a mental challenge for you to mentally and physically get yourself ready and the guys must be doing that in taking care of their bodies, getting their rest and refocusing and coming out pretty sharp.”
Trail Blazers Forward/Center Marcus Camby
“It has only been a week sense I have been here, so I am just trying to learn things on the fly, learn the plays, and learn how to play with different guys out there. Right now we are in the eighth spot, but in a game or two we could be seven or six, nine or ten. Each game is critical for us as we approach the end of the season.”

On Batum – “He was awesome tonight. I knew he had talent on the defensive end, but on the offensive end he was shooting the ball particularly well, driving to the hole getting layups and dunks. We’re definitely going to need him.”

Trail Blazers Forward Nicolas Batum
“Today was my day. I think Brandon had nine assists, my guys tried to feed me. I just took my open shots and just tried to play my game.”

Trail Blazers Guard Andre Miller
“We lost a tough game last night. It’s good to come back and get this game over with. They’re having a rough season but they’re learning as they go and they are going to continue to get better.”

Trail Blazers Guard Brandon Roy
“This is much needed, especially coming back from injury. Any time Nicholas steps up and Rudy it makes games a lot easier for us.”

On Batum – “He’s scored points but I have never seen him that aggressive. I thought he had a really good all around game. It seems like we were all dead tired tonight but somehow we all came out and played with a little more focus.”

Timberwolves Head Coach Kurt Rambis
“I thought our guys did a great job starting off the ball game, doing a lot of things that we worked on: inside play, Al got us off to a great start, defensive-wise adhering to our game plan, doing the things that we want to do. The last five minutes of the second quarter, they just got on this little roll, we couldn’t find a way to stop them, and they came out in the third quarter and just punched the game away for us. Our guys just didn’t have the energy and couldn’t find a way to score in the second half when it really counted. Portland’s a good team, they have talented players–inside players, outside players–and they shoot the basketball […] they’re fighting for their playoff lives right now. I told our team after the ball game that ‘use the rest of the season as a learning opportunity, because we’re going to be playing a lot of teams that are in playoff position, so they’re going to come out and play really hard and really well. So, we’re going to have to step up and play better and learn from this experience.”

Is there anything in particular that makes them a difficult matchup for you guys? – “Their length. Aldridge is a very tough matchup for us […] Miller’s just an incredibly savvy point guard in what he’s able to do out there on the floor. Their shooters have size and are able to see over things. Remember, they have a lot of players that are hurt, too. There’s a lot more to them; they understand who they are as a ballclub, where their strengths are and where their weaknesses are, and they play unselfishly and move the basketball. They do a great job playing defense, too.”

Return of turnovers. Just lost a handle of the offense? – “When our guys don’t get organized, when they don’t move the basketball, they try to manufacture something. One of the principles in how we want them to play is to just hit the first open man. There are options and sequences that happen, and when they hit a guy everybody knows what’s supposed to happen next. Whenever they ignore an open man, and they look to try and create something different, then when they look and try to find the man who was open in the first place, now he’s covered. Now we get stuck, now we hold the basketball, now the shot clock is ticking away, we’re in scramble mode. And we’re just not good at that. That’s not who we are, that’s not our talent as a ballclub, and that always gets us into trouble. There are some teams that have players you can throw the ball to bail them out in those situations, but we cannot, and we do not. It costs us–continually.”

Is it a point of emphasis to get Al going early? – “No more so in this ball game than in any other ballgame. We try to get him the ball and get him active early, but he was much more animated today. He was doing a much better job adhering to the concepts that we’re trying to get across to him: punching in, sealing, being aggressive and assertive. He just got a lot of that early in the ballgame, more so than in the second half. He wants to go to a block, have the ball thrown to him, and then create something. We’re trying to get him to understand that he can create his shot without the basketball. That’s what we’re looking for him to do. That puts a lot more pressure on the defense; they don’t know where he’s catching the ball. It happens quick, his shot happens quick, and they can’t walk into him the way that they’ve been doing it where they just double team and force him to take the basketball out.”

When you put Al in for Love (Al has 4 fouls)… is that a matchup thing? – “We just didn’t have any offense. We didn’t have anything happening for us offensive-wise and we needed to get something going out there.”

Is Kevin having a hard time? – “No. Every player wants to play minutes, and the unfortunate thing with guys–whether they’re starters or guys coming off the bench–when it gets into the environment like it was tonight, guys like Kevin that normally would be in the game for the last four, five, six minutes — those are four, five, six minutes that are gone for him. So now he loses his minutes that he would have needed to get him up to where his average is, somewhere in the 28-30 points a game which is what he plays at and is productive at. For players […] most of them understand the minute concept, and they also understand wanting to be in the game and get the closing minutes of ball games. You know, when games mean something at the end of ball games. That’s what’s important to players.”

You have to step up… how confident are you they can do that? – “It’s a challenge for them. I told them to use this as an opportunity to learn more about themselves and about themselves as a team. We’re trying to integrate Darko; young players, Kevin’s working on his post-up game, his outside shooting game; Al’s working on punching in; Jonny’s working on trying to negotiate picks and how to penetrate […]; Wayne’s learning how to the basketball; Corey’s learning how to defend people — on ball, off ball. There’s just a myriad of things we’re trying to learn as a ballclub, and it’s a great environment where the teams that we’ll be facing are intense, they’re driven, they’re focused. They have a light at the end of the tunnel — they know what they’re fighting for. So rather than just piss away the rest of the year, let’s use it to our advantage. Let’s use it to see if we can step up and continue to learn and develop whenever this environment’s tough. You can look at it as our playoff environment. These are playoff teams. These are teams we hopefully will be competing against in some point in time. We just have to learn how to learn about guys as we go around the league […] some of our guys haven’t played against any of these players except for this first year. We’re asking Kevin Love to play guys, Al to look away from the basket, there’s just so many things we want our guys working on and focusing on, and to use this time and these games to work on those skills and work on their games.”

Portland shot 35 FTs tonight. Do you attribute that to frustration and careless fouls? – “Well some of that has to do with our lack of defensive positioning, that our guys aren’t in help positions where they need to be. But, with a lot of it you have to give them credit. They’re attacking the basket, they’re going in very aggressive, wanting to score and wanting to get to the free throw line. Good playoff teams understand that that’s how you can get points on the board — by just being aggressive. Sometimes we do too much settling in those situations.”

Was tonight a lot about having tired legs? – “We can use that as an excuse, but I don’t like to give those players that excuse. Every team has four games in five nights; you do it a handful of times a year. This is what they have to learn to do, this is what the NBA is all about. You can’t just keep saying you’re tired and using that excuse for why you lose. You’ve got to find ways to win. You’ve got to find ways to bring your intensity and bring your focus, bring your energy, even when you’re tired. That’s what good players and good teams do.”

Do you feel sadistic in having Darko play through getting in shape? – “Do I feel sadistic? Not in the least. Here’s a player that hasn’t played in awhile. If that was me, I’d be out there at all costs. I would never look at the coach. I’d stay out there as long as I could, just to get the time. You can tell when he gets tired out there, but there’s times when I leave him out there just a couple minutes longer to let him try and push himself through it. That’s how you get in shape. You have to continue to push yourself. This is his training camp, this is his early part of the year, this is his preseason, he’s doing all this now.”

Al 100%? – “I’m not quite sure about that. I think a lot of it, what I see with Al, is that we’re asking him to make an awful lot of sacrifices to his game that he has never been asked to do. In terms of […] punching opportunities, rather than running to the left block and asking for the ball. We’re asking him to play without the basketball, asking him to do a lot of things defensively individual-wise and defensive wise that he’s never been asked to do, but we believe are going to be things that are going to help us win games in the future. So, he might in shape and condition to do what he used to do, but he’s still not 100% in condition to do the kinds of things that we expect him to do throughout the rest of the season and on to next year.”

Was keeping him in with four fouls when he seemed spent kind of the same thing with Darko, getting him to push through? – “Well, guys have to learn to play with fouls. That was my message to him early on too. When we were in OKC and he took the second foul, I said ‘you have to learn how to play with two fouls in the first half. You have to learn to play defense with your feet. You can’t reach. But, he turned around and reached and picked up his third foul and he came out of the ballgame. But that’s– they have to learn to do that. You can’t be passive, you can ‘t just not play defense, you have to find a way to not do the silly things that gets you those silly fouls. You have to play in a strong physical manner with your feet and chest and not with your hands.”

Timberwolves Forward Ryan Gomes
 On their games against the Blazers – “They were the better team tonight, and the last three times we played them previous to tonight.”
On what gives them the most problems with the Blazers – “I think their length and their athleticism. They space the floor, they got guys like Aldridge that can hit shots.”
On Nicolas Batum – “I think this is probably his best game of the year.”
On Darko Milicic – “He didn’t get the opportunities he thought he was going to get in New York, and he came in here and he got opportunities to play.”
On the rest of the season – “We’ve got to go out there and compete, we still got 20-something games left and we can make some things happen.”
Timberwolves Guard Wayne Ellington
On playing the Blazers this year – “They’ve got us good pretty much every time.”
On their stretch of recent games – “This time period is really a grind, definitely. We’re facing teams that are trying to make the playoffs, trying to get a different position and trying to get a win. So this time was even tougher than earlier in the season.”
On Portland’s offensive success tonight – “I think our effort on defense and our focus wasn’t as good as we wanted it to be.”

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