McMillan says Blazers can overcome challenge
Portland Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan said his team fully understands the situation it is facing.
After overcoming injuries, obstacles and setbacks all season, the Blazers are now faced with their biggest test of the season.
“It’s do or die,” said McMillan, while being speaking Tuesday with the media during a conference call.
Portland is down 3-2 to the Phoenix Suns in a Western Conference best-of-seven first-round playoff series.
Game 6 is set for Thursday at the Rose Garden in Portland.
To advance to the Western Conference semifinals for the first time since 2000, the Blazers face a two-part test. First, Portland must turn the emotional lift provided by what should be a raucous home-court crowd into a Game 6 victory. Then, the Blazers will have to travel to Phoenix and defeat the favored Suns on Saturday in Game 7.
The challenge will not be easy. But McMillan said neither he nor his team has any plans of backing down. Moreover, McMillan feels like Portland can pass its lopsided test if the Blazers control key facets of the game that have plagued the team during its three playoff losses. All of which have been blowouts, as Portland has lost by an average of 22 points.
Topping the list: free throws, rebounding, turnovers and transition points.
Phoenix won all four statistical battles during a 107-88 home victory in Game 5.
But when the Blazers have controlled the categories, Portland has been able to slow down the up-tempo Suns and emerge with a hard-fought victory.
“When you’re not playing your game, you’re playing their game,” McMillan said. “Those shots that you’re taking and you’re missing are turning into fast-break points. … Those are things you can’t do or give this team.”
Intangibles that fall into the area of “hustle play,” McMillan said, have also defined the Blazers’ position after each game.
When a shorthanded Portland team has outscrapped and outworked Phoenix, the Blazers have come out ahead. But in Games 2, 3 and 5, the Suns attacked harder and played fiercer. As a result, Portland is staring at a major 3-2 hole — one it must dig in and plow away to work itself out of.
“We know we’re capable and we have done it this season,” McMillan said. “We can’t talk about it. It is what it is. As far as, we know exactly what will happen if we don’t take care of business on Thursday: the season is over. So, it can’t be any more black and white, as far as what it is right now. It’s going to be a huge challenge to win this series. But it’s not an impossible challenge.”
Meanwhile, McMillan has yet to make a decision as to whether guard Brandon Roy will start for the Blazers during Game 6.
Roy said after Game 5 he would request to take the court at tipoff, replacing Jerryd Bayless in the first rotation.
“We have until the start of (Game 6) to make that decision,” McMillan said. “And that’s certainly an option.”
Roy, who missed Games 1-3 while recovering from knee surgery, came off the bench for Games 4-5. His 2009-10 playoff debut during Game 4 sparked the Blazers to victory. But Roy was mostly ineffective during a Game 5 defeat. He picked up three quick fouls, and recorded just five points on 2-of-7 shooting.
Still, McMillan sees Roy as a major asset for the Blazers. Phoenix has guarded the three-time All-Star as if he is 100-percent healthy, using double teams to immediately pressure Roy as soon as he touches the ball. In turn, this has freed up Portland’s weak side, providing the Blazers with improved shot selection.
“He gives us something whether he’s putting that ball in the bucket or not,” McMillan said.
The Blazers did not practice Monday. The team used the down time to watch video and receive medical treatment. … McMillan said Portland center Marcus Camby, who dislocated his left pinky finger during Game 5, is dealing with soreness from the injury. Camby underwent treatment Tuesday, and will be re-evaluated today. … Blazers forward Nicolas Batum (strained right shoulder) is expected to practice today and play in Game 6.
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