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April 12, 2008 -- Blazers 108, Mavericks 105

There is some serious character building going on with this team right now.  Given Brandon Roy's out-of-the-ordinary comments after the Kings game last night and the playoff stakes at hand for the visiting Mavericks, there was plenty of reason to approach this game with trepidation.  Instead, the Blazers brought the funk.

The 73 percent shooting for the first quarter funk.  The Jarrett Jack to Brandon Roy fast break allyoop funk. The "let's just never miss a 3 pointer and see how big we can build this lead" funk.  The "ok, crowd, just give us a 48 minute standing ovation because we are balllllinnn'" funk.  The "put a smile on our coach's face one day after laying a massive egg on the road" funk.

Nate was happy; the crowd was jubilant; the players loved it.  If the win against the Lakers on Tuesday was a long kiss goodbye to the Rose Garden fans then tonight's win was a 3am "I love you XOXO" text message sent from the airport baggage claim.

They haven't forgotten about us.

Postgame Reaction

Coach Nate McMillan on the offense tonight: "Not only did I love the offense, [I loved] the crowd. We just got to tip our hats to the fans.  These guys are playing off of our fans. Tonight, that crowd was loud, it kept these guys fighting.  When you have that momentum like that, and the crowd is into the game, and you're knocking down some shots, you're capable of beating a good team. Offense was great.  31 assists. That whole starting unit pretty much in double figures.  It doesn't really get any better than that."

Nate on whether he can remember playing a better quarter than the 1st quarter tonight: "I don't recall. If we have, it's been a long time.  Everything was falling for us. What I wanted to do was get Jack in the game with Brandon and Blake to speed up the game. Last night was such a slow game. We really wanted to push the ball tonight. We wanted to attack them with pick and roll sets with 3 guards on the floor. We were able to do that, just great execution by the guys."

Nate on reaching 40 wins for the year: "It's great. It's sweet. It's great to see 40 I haven't seen 40 since I've been here. The guys have done a great job. They have responded in situations like last night when we played bad and we came back and bounced back and I thought tonight they bounced back against a very good team.  The message tonight was: let's send a message to ourselves, to our fans, and to Dallas. Something to look forward to next year.  Try and win this game.  Let's leave it out on the floor.  Whatever happens after that, we'll deal with it. But let's deal with it."

More Nate on the importance of 40 wins: "It's 40 wins. It's a mark for us.  Over the last two years we haven't been close to that. We need to be in the 40s to get to the playoffs.  I think it just sends a message for us next year if we continue to build the way we have and improve the way we have hopefully we'll be around 50 wins next year.  That's a good year for us.  Of course we would have liked to have had more, and probably should have a few more, but to get to 40 we have an opportunity to have a winning record.  Tuesday is a game we come out and we try to get 41."

Nate on how he handled the final possession with the 3 point lead.  Do you foul in that situation or just play straight up?: "We thought about it.  You can go either way.  A lot of people who are not making those decisions say you foul.  We look at it as you're not down. You're up. You're not losing. The only way you can lose that game is to foul.  That's the only way you can lose that game.  If you foul in the shooting motion and they score, that's the only way.  If you don't foul and they make it, you don't lose and you go into overtime. I've been one who has always played it straight up."

Nate on Tuesday's game against the Grizzlies: "We can't overlook anyone. I think the thing is to try to get the guys to understand this win can put us in a position to have a .500 record. It's a home game, it's our last home game. We should definitely play that game. But, again, nothing is given."

Nate on the team's resiliency: "No question. They've bounced back when they've had bad games like we had last night. We didn't play well at all. We talked about it after the game. We forgot about it and we moved on to Dallas today.  They came back and played one of their better games against one of the top teams in the league. We've done it all season long where they've responded. You want to see that, where you don't play well you find a way to get it back. To get your rhythm back that next game."

Nate on Brandon's comments after the loss to the Kings: "I just felt like he was frustrated. When I read that today and looking at him last night, he was frustrated with what was going on and how we played and I'm sure how he played. It's one of those things where the frustration last night kind of took over but today he was ready to go and he showed up and played well."

Nate on whether he talked to Brandon: "Yeah, we talked. He did say he was frustrated. And it wasn't the team or anything like that it was just one of those nights where you're frustrated with everything. That happens. The main thing was the way he responded. They all responded."

Nate on the passing tonight: "It helps when you have good ball movement, you shoot better.  You've got to shoot the ball well, but you've got to move the ball too."

Nate on another strong game from Channing Frye: "We knew he could shoot the ball all along. Every time he's gotten that opportunity, he's done some pretty good things. He was part of that streak when LaMarcus went down and we had a 13 game winning streak. He shot the ball well. It's just that he's played out of position all season long and because of rebounding-- one of the things he wasn't doing as well was rebounding the ball.  I cut his minutes and went to Joel. He's been able to shoot the ball and do some real good things all season long."

Nate on Channing's rebounding production: "That's due to minutes. Minutes and the fact that he's not the center on the floor. He has LaMarcus, he's playing with a bigger unit, he's able to rebound a little bit more. When he was coming in with Travis and James and Sergio and Jack, that smaller unit, he was in there by himself, most of the time he was just getting overpowered.  Now he's with LaMarcus and some bigger guys and he's rebounding well and he's getting more minutes."

Channing Frye on the result:  "Sometimes we play up to the competition.  That happens.  And at home we play so much better because we feed off the energy of this crowd and that's not bad we need to just become even more professional than what we are and learn how to win on the road and establish how we want to win. Even on the road we might not as run as much, we definitely establish our pace of the game and go at a certain tempo and get a rhythm where we are able to be comfortable and read the plays. Today we were running that screen and roll and Avery just did a great job of mixing it up.  Sending it down the baseline. Second they were trying to get back and rotating.  He went through the whole thing and we were making adjustments out there. And that's good for a team."

Channing on what keyed the big 1st quarter: "Our offense comes from them getting one shot. If you look at the rebounding it was spread out between everybody.  They were getting one shot and going down there. We're getting easy shots and now we're pushing. And even when they do make it, we're still pushing.  Yeah, our offense kinda dictates, but if we don't get stops then we can't run."

And, because Jack is continuing to light it up, I got this exclusive quote for the purpose of furthering debate:

Jason Kidd on Jarrett Jack's game: "Jarrett is coming along great. He's understanding how to run a team. He's making big plays, finding the open guy.  He's doing quite well. He's having a great year."

Random Game Notes

-- Shorter than usual tonight because I pulled a double-header today with the Nike Hoop Summit and the game tonight.  Look for more from me on the Hoop Summit tomorrow. Had the chance to talk with Tyreke Evans after the game and a basketball blogosphere celebrity during the game, lots of good stuff to recap.
-- The unconfirmed word on the street is that retirement papers may be filed for Darius Miles shortly. The key word is unconfirmed but I thought you might be interested.
-- Mark Cuban was in the press room at halftime, chatting up Kevin Pritchard.  Cuban was wearing what appeared to be Starbury sneakers.  Not sure exactly how I feel about that.
-- Speaking of Pritchard, did anyone notice his more-than-usual animation during today's game?  He stood up to argue a foul call at one point.  Cuban, of course, was up to his usual antics--talking to the refs, waving his arms, the whole bit.  Perhaps Pritchard was just trying to keep up with the Joneses.
-- Tonight's national anthem was sung by someone straight out of Disney on Ice. Just a strange rendition.
-- The Jack to Roy alley-oop was Picasso.
-- When the Blazers topped 100 points, earning the much-coveted Chalupas, the scoreboard cut to PA announcer Mark Mason who was dressed in a traditional Mexican poncho of some sort.  It was a little too much for my tastes, just like a Chalupa.
-- Quick follow-up.  Remember the Monty Williams interview from a few weeks back?  I ran into Coach Williams outside the Mavericks locker room. Coach said, "Hey, thanks for the interview, my people saw it and told me about it."  Coach Williams is the man.  If you are one of his people, welcome to Blazers Edge! In a way, I like to think we are all Coach Williams' people.
-- The run-in got me thinking on the drive home.  Should we preemptively throw a nice raise and bonus at Coach Williams to make sure he doesn't go Bayno on us? I'd sure like to have his player development skills next year given the progress of so many guys have made this year.  I would put locking up Coach Williams at or near the top of the off-season to-do list, as the rumors of him potentially taking a head coaching spot have been floating for some time.
-- The locker room was jubilant tonight. LaMarcus was goofing around with the television cameras and Channing Frye was super-animated. These guys love winning.
-- Nate had a huge smile on his face post-game.  I think in a way he enjoys watching the young team struggle, because he is able to craft "teachable moments" out of their resiliency and bounce-back-ability.  
-- I saw Martell tonight.  He had a big smile on his face. I'll take that as a good sign.

--Ben (benjamin.golliver@gmail.com)