Portland Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts discussed his team's upcoming first-round playoff series with the Houston Rockets with Chad Doing of 750 AM The Game on Friday.
Audio of the interview can be found right here.
Here's a condensed transcript of the interview. Questions are summarized and in bold; answers are word-for-word and in block quote.
Are you guys embracing the role as underdogs or are you looking at it like "This is an evenly matched series. We played them tough during the season." What's the mentality going in?
To be honest, probably a little bit of both. We know that we're not the favorite. They have home court. We have played them well twice. I think the experts see that we're 1-3. They may not have watched our fourth game with them, that really should've been ours. We embrace the roll of underdog, but I don't think at all that we don't think that we have a chance or that we're by any means overshadowed by it. I think we got off to a good start because we had something to prove and I think we go into this series with something to prove.
You look at Damian Lillard. He's getting a chance to get his first taste of playoff action, and we've seen it over the course of the years in the NBA, where all the greats -- they kind of have to go through that "baptism by fire" in the playoffs and getting used to that intensity and what the game is all about -- they way it's played in the playoffs. What is the biggest message you'll give to [Lillard] before Game 1 on Sunday?
To be honest, I don't know if there's necessarily a message that needs to be delivered. [Lillard]'s a student of the game. He powered through and willed his way through a remarkable rookie season when everybody said "Well, he's a rookie. He's going to hit a wall. He's going to have his ups-and downs," which he did. He has very strong willpower and I think that's the biggest thing you need in the playoffs. It's a mental grind and [Lillard] is one of the more mentally tough young players that I've been around.
James Harden and Dwight Howard are so good. How do you go about limiting what they do and the damage they can do to you with their games, but at the same time, not allowing somebody else, like maybe a Chandler Parsons, to go off? How do you find that balance, in terms of how you want to slow them down?
I think, at this level in the playoffs, that's always a question you have to ask, no matter what team you're talking about. Every team usually has two or three guys that are their primary scorers. We need to work hard on Dwight Howard. We need to work hard on James Harden. Limiting them is hard work by not only the guys guarding them, but the guys helping.
One of the things I really like about the playoffs is that everybody is really dialed in. Everybody is dialed in to every possession, and therefore your help defense is better and your reactions are better. I think that's what it's going to take. James Harden and Dwight Howard are going to score. Like what you said, you got to minimize what they do, and at the same time, we can't let other guys have an impact with the offensive rebounding and the drives to the basket and the back-doors and all the other ways that they score -- the open threes.
It takes a concerted effort, but what I like about the playoffs is that since everybody is dialed in -- I'm not saying it's easier -- but, you have a better chance of accomplishment.
How important is it to value each and every possession in the playoffs?
It's just as important as the regular season. I listened to you earlier when Ben Golliver was talking about valuing the possession. I think a lot of times, people equate that to just turnovers. When I say "value every possession," it means at both ends of the floor, with and without the ball -- valuing a possession by being alert on the weak sides so you can stunt or valuing a possession by executing a play and setting a screen when and where you're supposed to set it; being dialed in on out-of-timeout plays. All those things are part of valuing every possession and it's much more a mental thing. It's not just taking care of the ball, but that is part of it.
How much can you play [Robin Lopez] one-on-one against [Howard]?
I think "one-on-one" is a little bit of a misnomer because even though we don't double-team, I think it's important that the other players really crowd him and protect the paint, and not just stand and watch [Lopez] guard [Howard]. It's not really one-on-one, but it's not really double-team. I think it's a team thing. The closer [Howard] gets in the paint, everybody else should crowd him and make it a little more difficult for him to score.
What's it like going to the playoffs this time around, with a team that's won 54 games, compared to the first time you went with Milwaukee?
We were the eight seed. You talk about crazy end-of-season scenarios. We were the eighth seed. If we would've won our last game of the season, we would've been the fifth seed. There were four teams, all within a game of each other, and we had all the tiebreakers. We ended up losing the last game at Washington, which moved us from a five to an eight seed. We ended up playing Detroit, who was, at that time, two years removed from a championship, but obviously, they were still a very good team. We were a heavy underdog and we lost the first two there. We won Game 3, and then lost 4 and 5. We were over-matched.
In some ways, it was similar to this year. We had made a 10-game turnaround. No one picked us to make the playoffs. We got off to a hot start. We kind of faltered down the stretch, but we made the playoffs. This time is much different. The 54 wins puts us at a different level. Our expectations are much higher than they were in Milwaukee.
Ben joined Chad in studio for an hour on Friday. That audio is right here.
-- Sagar Trika | @BlazersBySagar