Playoff Game 1 Open Thread: Pre-Pre-Game Edition

Note: This post will stay on top until game time. For updates and links, please scroll down. 

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The playoffs start today!  You've read the statsthe matchups, and analysis from both sides of the spectrum.  The time for talk is almost done.  The games are upon us.

This thread is for you to discuss Game 1 and/or the series in general until Timmay and Cab get the official pre-game open thread up this evening.  The game is at 6:30 Pacific and will be televised on ESPN nationally and locally on KGW.  Those of you in the Jersey Contest playoffs (and ONLY those people) can find your game form HERE.

My opening/last-minute thoughts:

The Blazers will have to realize that the playoffs are a completely different animal.  Hopefully they've learned over the last couple of years but it's amazing how little playoff experience--especially winning playoff experience--this team has.  The playoffs demand a laser-tight focus.  Playoff series aren't won over the course of two weeks no matter what the schedule says.  Playoff series are won minute by minute with the seemingly smallest turns of fate...twists occasioned by the preparation, dedication, aggressiveness, execution, and poise of the team that ends up taking advantage of them.  You can luck into winning a playoff game.  There's no way to luck into winning a seven-game series.  You have to take advantage of each moment, each opportunity.  Winning is not something you hope for here.  Winning is something you demand and, if necessary, tear apart the other team to get.  If you're not prepared to tear them apart they will surely do it to you.

There's only one opponent here:  the Dallas Mavericks.  There's only one currency with any value here:  winning.  That is it, period.  Everything else has to be put aside until that fourth victory is gained.  No excuses, no alternatives...nothing else matters.  That's the mindset the Blazers need.

The Blazers have to understand that the playoffs revolve around matchups.  The opponent has you scouted.  You'll rarely surprise them even in Game 1.  You'll never do it in Game 5.  Playoff basketball means executing plays that the other team cannot stop and being willing to go to that well again and again until they prove they can turn you aside.  This isn't about minutes and shots.  It's about dominating the scoreboard.  It's also about realizing that the opponent is doing the same:  keying on their unstoppable players and thwarting them.  The Blazers need a HUGE bullseye on Dirk Nowitzki.  The Blazers also need to exploit any player at any position that shows a weakness defending them, even if that means Gerald Wallace or Nicolas Batum get 30 shots.  And by the way, the Blazers better make those shots when they have them.  You don't win by winging an opponent here.  You win by dropping them and making sure they're down.  Miss your open jumpers and let them off the hook and you will pay.  Games between good teams can be decided by 1 or 2 points.  Series between good teams can be decided by a single game.  Don't miss your moment even if that moment appears to come in an otherwise insignificant stretch of the mid-second quarter.  You never know if that will be the bucket that eventually sends you over the top.

The Blazers need to understand that Game 1 sets the tone in these series and come out ready to take it.  A first-night blowout would be a huge confidence boost to the Mavericks and a serious blow to Portland.  We need to see Portland's best shot immediately.  They have to show they're ready, not just wandering in hoping something good will happen.  This will be the best way to draw distinction between this year's effort and the playoff losses in their recent past.

The Blazers also need to understand that Game 1 doesn't mean everything.  If they lose it (not that they should even be considering that possibility at this point) Game 2 awaits.  Going back home 1-1 is still 1-1 no matter what the order.  The same holds if they win.  A bigger peril than having to summon the nerve for revenge is getting bloated with success, either in a game itself (prospering in the first half and figuring the game is over) or between games (winning one and figuring victories will automatically repeat).  Once you take the foot off the gas pedal regaining momentum is hard.  The accelerator stays down, driving for wins, until this is over.  That holds true whether the series is 3-0, 0-3, or somewhere in between.

The playoffs are upon us.  It's go time.  Let's see how the Blazers respond.

Throw in your own thoughts below.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

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