Grant Lucas's Blog

Grant Lucas

Apr 05

Third Time's The Charm

By Grant Lucas Posted in: Blazers, Grizzlies, Lakers, Rockets, Spurs, Warriors
Walt Disney owners are on Line 1. They're wanting to incorporate a new rollercoaster based on the Portland Trail Blazers' 2010-11 season.

The basic design is to start out high, dip low very quickly, then just as quickly hit an upslope. The car stays high but incorporates small dips and turns, keeping the rider off track - so to speak.

The ride, however, is not over. We as riders are still far above the ground, although a 108-87 loss to the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday does bring us down a bit. Even still, the Trail Blazers have clinched their third straight playoff berth thanks to a Houston Rockets loss.

Call it "bittersweet." Call it "grand" or "perfect." Call it what you please, but the regular season - the first two-thirds of Disney's new ride - is yet to be completed.

Portland has four games remaining - one apiece against the Memphis Grizzlies and Los Angeles Lakers - are the Trail Blazers are vying for the preferred sixth spot of the Western Conference.

If things shake out the way they are now, Portland, as many already know, face off with the Dallas Mavericks. Wouldn't you prefer that spot rather than face the San Antonio Spurs or Lakers?

Head Coach Nate McMillan said the difference between playing in the regular season and the postseason is psychological.

"I think it's mental," he said. "Come in with that sense of urgency but being able to be in a calm state of mind - understand where you are and being able to get to the next level of play. With this challenge going down the stretch and getting into the playoffs, having to raise your level of play and, again, mentally being able to do that."

McMillan doesn't like to talk about the future. He'd rather focus on the game ahead, take things one game at a time. I, on the other hand, like to forecast.

To know the future, one must understand the past.

Dig deep within your mind. Shovel away the heaps of garbage that cover the bad memories of the 2000 playoffs. Portland overcame a 3-1 series deficit to even up the series at three games each. In the finale, the Trail Blazers held a 15-point lead late in the game before Los Angeles stormed back, sealed the win and went on to take the NBA Championship.

Since that heartbreaking moment, Portland's postseason record is 7-18 with first-round dispatches in each of the five seasons the Trail Blazers made the playoffs.

This time around, Portland may find out what the next round is like. The Mavericks hold the third-best record in the Western Conference, but they have had their share of postseason trauma as well.

Dallas made the 2006 Finals, but fell hard to the Miami Heat, losing in six games. Since then, the Mavericks have struggled in postseason play.

With an exception to the 2008-09 season - when Dallas made the conference semifinals before losing to New Orleans 4-1 - the Mavericks have been targets.

The year after making the Finals, Dallas, as a No. 1 seed, choked, mailing in its first-round matchup to the Warriors. Last season, similar story, as the Mavericks lost to the Spurs - an 8-seed.

Caron Butler is out. Tyson Chandler has been in and out. Jason's Kidd and Terry have been streaky. Dirk Nowitzki has carried the Mavericks the last few postseasons (and see how that turned out). Dallas is against the ropes, waiting to be TKO'd. Portland steps into a fight that the Warriors and Spurs have started. The Trail Blazers can, as Shang Tsung said, "finish them."

If there's one thing to look at when breaking down this possible playoff matchup, McMillan pointed it out. Teams that like to run won't be able to run. Scores will be lowered. All of this revolves around one aspect:

"Each possession becomes very important," he said. "You are playing more halfcourt basketball than you would normally play. So scores are going to go down more... Winning possessions on both ends of the floor becomes important and, certainly, the better teams are capable of taking away your strength and forcing you to do other things."

We've got four games left. Four games for the Trail Blazers to fend off the Hornets and Grizzlies for the coveted sixth spot. We know Portland is in the postseason, but we want the Mavericks. Let them hear you in Texas.


  1. Hopefully we can hold off N.O for the 6th spot and play Dallas. If not, I have no problem dropping down to 8th and taking on the Spurs. I like our chances in either of those matchups.

    by DHawes22 on 4/6/2011 11:00 AM
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