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.
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
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.