There's an old sports adage about not letting a loss beat you twice. As in, the negativity, lack of confidence, or whatever the side effects of losing may be for a particular team has the potential to bleed over into the next contest if dwelled upon for too long.
But the same might also be true when a team gets a victory like the Trail Blazers did at the Rose Garden in Game 4. The citizens of Rip City, players included, were understandably enthusiastic after coming back from an 18-points deficit in the fourth quarter to beat the Mavericks 84-82 to even the series 2-2, but that game, as much fun as it was, is gone. The Mavs may be bruised after letting a 3-1 series lead slip through their fingers in just 12 minutes, but they'll be ready to play Monday night. If the Trail Blazers want to win a game on Dallas' home court, something they'll have to do in order to win the series, they'll need to be ready as well, and that's hard to do that when you're still thinking about the prior game, be it a win or a loss.
But at practice on Sunday at American Airlines Center in Dallas, the Trail Blazers had the look of a team that has turned the page despite being less than 23 hours removed from Game 4.
"I guess when you're in a series, it's 2-2, as happy as I want to be about (Saturday) night, it was great for tying up the series, but at the same time, (Monday) is a really important game," said Brandon Roy, "We've got a chance to beat this team on their court. We have to beat them here one time if we want to win the series, so (Monday) is so important that I'm thinking about (Monday) more than I've thought about (Saturday) night."
"I think we've learned a lot about turning the page, about moving on," said LaMarcus Aldridge, who played nearly 47 minutes in Game 4. "We came here and we lost two, then we went home and won two, so I think everybody is kinda knowing we have to turn the page and move on. I think it'll be a good momentum thing. Guys will play more confident but I don't think we're going to have a problem with that game because we haven't won here yet. So I think guys are going to turn the page."
It's a shame the team can't revel in the Saturday's excitement, but it's a necessity nonetheless, at least if the Trail Blazers want to continue their season past this weekend. And in a way, forgetting about Game 4, at least in the near term, will do more to solidify the legacy and preserve the memory of that historic comeback than dwelling on Saturday's win to the detriment of the preparation and focus needed to win Game 5.
"The message is that (Game 4) will feel even better if we win Game 5," said Roy. "It will just add that much more momentum to what we're trying to do here. And also just remembering what we set out to do, which is to try and beat Dallas in this series. It wasn't just to win one game or two games, it was to beat this team. Winning (Saturday) put our goal within reach. Got to get guys to focus in and understand that it was big (Saturday), but lets try to carry that momentum into (Monday). I'm interested to see how we come out."
We'll know a lot about how the rest of the series will play out within the first quarter of Game 5, though that sounds somewhat foolish to say after the way things turned out in Game 4. If the Mavericks come out tentative, it will signal that they're still reeling from giving up a 23-point second half lead. And if that's the case, they're done.
Same goes for the Trail Blazers. If they come out and play the first quarter of Game 5 in the say way they played the first quarter of Game 4, Saturday's heroics won't mean a thing. It's time to move on and leave the reminiscing and backslapping for a later date.
"We have to get to the next game," said Nate McMillan. "Both teams have defended home court. We were fortunate enough to pull that (Game 4) out and tie the series. We know that (Monday) is going to be a very important game for both teams. They're going to come out with a sense of urgency, and we have to do the same."