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Three Nate Things that Bother Me about Losing to the Mavs

I don't know whether others are bothered by these same things, or not. Anyway, for discussion, here are three things Nate did that bothered me, and may bother you, in losing to the Mavs.

1. Nate told his players and the media that what his team had to do was play under control.

Anyone who watched that series will tell you that when the Blazers tried to play into the Mavs half-court control game, something that experienced team had matured into, the Blazers got worked. When the Blazers played with desperation, they challenged the Mavs athleticism, which is not the Mavs game. This gave the Blazers the extra energy the desperately needed to have a chance at outplaying the Mavs. Right up through the Blazers getting worked in game 6, this was Nate's mantra.

Right decision: At some point, Sarge should have recognized that the only chance his team had was for him to send his guys onto the court pumped up and loose, ready to run and press and beat the Mavs with superior athleticism and heart.

2. Nate blamed his shooters for missing the open shots that his offense generated.

Nate's offense is efficient. But in this six game set, the Mavs tried to make Portland beat them from the outside. It didn't always work, but when the Mavs did hold the Blazers on the perimeter, even in spurts, they grew some nice leads. So we got open shots, we missed them, and maybe you are asking yourself, "Why is this a Nate issue?" That's easy. It's because the outside shots his players missed are pretty much the same outside shots they missed coming down the stretch of the regular season. The Blazers are not the Mavs. The Blazers coach's willingness to make this at times a three-point shooting contest with the Mavs was really asking for the beating the Mavs gave him. That's why this is a Nate problem. And it's not like there weren't other things to emphasize. But if you don't set picks and you don't force double-teams, it's hard to get the opponent out of their set defense. 

Right Decision: Nate gave up too early trying to ride specific mismatches, e.g. Miller and Matthews in the post, in favor of too much reliance on his stock offense. We had mismatches. We could have forced them in addition to running more to get more mismatches in the early offense. (Posting Camby for instance to make Dirk work on defense might have been tried.)

3. Before game 6, asked what his team could do differently, Nate said it's game 6, the teams know what each other was doing and the game would come down to execution.

This is wrong on so many levels. First, it does not account for the need for the Blazers to play with energy and to get the mature Mavs squad out of their comfort zone. It also is basically telling your players that the coach is not going to try anything new, and that you will be forced to beat the Mavs at their own game, a game they have controlled through large stretches of games 1-5, and if you don't make it work, it will be on you. It's also plain wrong: people should make it a goal to learn something new every day of our lives, and Nate violated this principle. It is my firm belief that there were changes to be made to give the Blazers a better chance in the series. It was up to the head coach to find a few new wrinkles, even if they amounted to throwing frying pans and the kitchen sink. [And for those who argue Nate's statement to the press was a ploy on his part, watch game 6 again and tell me what he brought that was new or improved.]

Right Decision: If a coach doesn't have any new ideas, he has players and assistant coaches -- he might even ask the man on the street for help.

Staying the course with the plus/minus the Blazers had toward the end of the series was a horrible decision. We had not shown that our players and our system could beat theirs; we had shown that it took a heroic effort to try and justify the strategy Nate rolled out from the regular season to beat a less-vulnerable-than-thought Mavs team who it turns out were still playing into form.

I am not saying that, recognizing these problems, the Blazers could have necessarily solved them. But it is frustrating watching another first round exit where serious questions about Nate's coaching and creativity come so readily to mind. I mean, 2-4 and out, 2-4 and out, 2-4 and out. Is that simply coincidence?

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