Blazers prepare for the Mavericks
Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan is dismissing any debate over the ''underdog'' in the series between Portland and the Dallas Mavericks.
Simply put, there isn't one, McMillan asserted Thursday.
''We don't fear Dallas. We respect them. We believe we can win,'' McMillan said. ''We were even this year. Both teams split and both teams won on their home court. We know where we are and who we're playing against.''
The sixth-seeded Blazers prepared for their first-round playoff series against the third-seeded Mavericks on Thursday at the team's practice facility in Tualatin, Ore. The team will also practice at home on Friday morning before leaving on Saturday for Dallas.
The series kicks off on Saturday night at the American Airlines Center.
The underdog chatter was touched off by comments Dallas guard Jason Terry made after the Mavericks defeated the New Orleans Hornets 121-89 in the regular-season finale Wednesday night.
The Lakers beat the Sacramento Kings, pushing Dallas to the third seed. Portland had already wrapped up the sixth spot.
''All seven other teams wanted to play us,'' Terry told the Dallas Morning News. ''Now, we're the underdog and we're going out fighting every night.''
The Blazers and the Mavericks split their regular season series, with each team winning twice on its home court. Each of the games was decided by eight or fewer points.
Portland shot 47.8 percent from the field against the Mavs, while Dallas shot 51 percent against the Blazers.
Overall, the Blazers lead the all-time series against the Mavericks 72-57, and lead 9-5 in playoff games.
Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge, who leads the Blazers this season with an average of 21.8 points and 8.8 rebounds, speculated Terry was pulling out the underdog card to motivate his team.
''They're a really good team with a lot of options,'' Aldridge said. ''That's what they're saying. We still have to go out and play.''
Portland forward Gerald Wallace wasn't going to engage in the back-and-forth.
''I don't want to hear it,'' Wallace said with a smile when a reporter asked about Terry's comment. ''I'm done, no comment.''
The Blazers are in the playoffs despite a turbulent season. In December, the team got word that center Greg Oden required season-ending microfracture surgery. About that same time, it became apparent that three-time All-Star Brandon Roy was having trouble with his knees.
Roy, who has said he lacks cartilage between his bones, finally underwent arthroscopic surgery on both knees in January. The former Rookie of the Year missed 35 games overall this season.
The Blazers also lost veteran center Marcus Camby for more than a month earlier this year because of a knee injury.
But Portland did gain when they acquired Wallace in a trade with the Charlotte Bobcats at the NBA deadline in late February.
Wallace has been key down the stretch, averaging 15.8 points and 7.6 rebounds. He also has averaged two steals per game with Portland.
The Blazers have been to the postseason in each of the past two seasons, but both times they've been bumped in the first round - by the Houston Rockets in 2009 and the Phoenix Suns last year.
''Being in the playoffs two years in a row, you feel a little more comfortable because you know what to expect,'' said Aldridge, who was born in Dallas.
The Blazers also played the Mavericks in the first round back in 2003. Dallas won the series in seven games.
That series was memorable because of Rasheed Wallace's famous ''both teams played hard'' news conference comments after Portland's victory in Game 4. He was fined $30,000 by the NBA.
It was also the series where then-Portland coach Maurice Cheeks rushed to the rescue of a 13-year-old girl who forgot the words to the national anthem before Game 3.