The Trail Blazers held a light practice at their facility in Tualatin prior to flying out to San Antonio for Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinal matchup against the Spurs. When practice was held, the Trail Blazers did not yet know if they would be playing the Spurs or the Mavericks, as Game 7 of that first-round series didn’t conclude until Sunday afternoon.
Nevertheless, here’s what Terry Stotts, Damian Lillard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Robin Lopez, Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews had to say about advancing past the first-round, the reaction from fans after Lillard’s stunning Game 6 series-ending buzzer-beater, not being satisfied and what they did to relax after an intense series against the Rockets.
Surprised by reaction from fans?
“I don’t know if it was a surprise. Obviously it was a great feeling in the arena after the win. Any time you close out a series at home it’s special. I don’t get out much but I do know that I got a lot of thumbs up over the last couple of days.”
Do you nurture or foster an underdog mentality?
“No, I think it’s just kind of who we are. I know Damian has talked about being the underdog, Wes being undrafted, Damian coming from a small school, some of the guys feeling like they’ve been overlooked throughout their career. I don’t think it’s anything that is really something we’ve fostered. I think it’s just kind of grown organically.”
How will you approach today’s practice not knowing the opposition?
“We won’t do much. Today is more about recovery, recuperation, taking care of our bodies. The guys who haven’t played, obviously they’re good. They’ll get some run in. But the guys that have been playing a lot of minutes will just recover. We won’t do any preparation for the playoffs.”
When do you start to prepare?
“We have our preparation for both teams, but we really haven’t locked in. We’ve divided responsibilities between Dallas and San Antonio. After the game tonight we’ll do our prep on the plane, do our prep tonight and then we’ll start at it tomorrow morning. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t say plane. Depends on who we play.”
So you haven’t looked either way yet?
“No. I’ve watched every game of that series as I could throughout the playoffs, but I haven’t locked in on any team.”
How about home court? I didn’t seem to matter much in your series against the Rockets.
“Yeah, I think home court is still important. You look at the Game 7’s (on Saturday) and all home teams won there. To have a Game 7 at your place is important. I think it’s been shown that anybody can win anywhere during this playoff series, but home court was important for us in Game 6 and it was important (Saturday) as well.”
When you said you wouldn’t be satisfied just making the playoffs is this what you envisioned or do you still higher hopes?
“You go into every series wanting and expecting to win. I really don’t like putting limits on what we’re capable of doing. I think the way the West is, anybody can win and anybody can lose. The important thing is just the next game, going in with the expectation we’re going to play well and win a game.”
Did you gain an advantage having extra time by eliminating Houston on Friday?
“At this stage and when you look at the series, whoever we play, we’re playing every other day, whenever you can gain some rest, no matter if you’re young or old, it’s certainly welcome, especially when you go deep into a series.”
What has life been like for you since hitting the Game 6 game-winner?
“The same as any other time. I just spend a lot of time at home with my family, watching movies and tv shows. I tried to stay off Twitter because my Twitter was blowing up. But I did pretty much the same things I always did.”
How many times have you watched the end of the game?
“I watched it maybe five to ten times. I’ve gotten so many videos of it sent to my phone. I watch it because every version is different. The thing I enjoyed the most about it was just seeing everybody react to it. You got to see how bad our team wanted to win that game. It wasn’t about me. You saw the coaches excited that we’re going to be moving on, my teammates running all over the floor, the crowd — I think a couple fans almost ran on the floor. I’m just happy that we was able to get that series done because the last thing we wanted to do was go back to Houston.”
How many calls and texts have you gotten?
“My phone was on 60 percent right after the game. As soon as I picked it up it was just buzzing and I went on the podium and when I got off of the podium it was dead. I think I had like 350 texts or something like that.”
Did you get back to all of them?
“I didn’t. There’s no way I could. I just saw the little blue mark pop up next to an unread text and I just started clicking on them so I could get all the unread texts out the way.”
How important is it to put that series behind you and start focusing on the next series?
“I think our team enjoyed it the night of the game but it’s over with now. It’s not like the moment is going to go away. We haven’t gone past the first round in 14 years, so people won’t forget it, but our team, we’ve got to move on from it. We’ve still got games to play and our goal wasn’t to make a big shot and be happy with that. Right after the game our team huddled up in the locker room and the main
thing everybody had to say was not to be satisfied. I think if anything, that made us want to get more done.”
(Note: the buzzer goes off around the 1:50 mark, so you might want to turn the sound down for that)
How different has this postseason been for you than other postseasons?
“Just more fun, more comfortable. Definitely feel this team has been locked in, this team has played better. Just been more fun for me.”
Do you do anything to relax and get away from the stress of the playoffs?
“Nah, I just lounge. I just lounge on my couch, watch TV. Pretty much was lazy all day.”
You don’t feel like you have to do anything to release from it?
“That is my release, watching TV on the couch and not even going anywhere. That’s my release.”
What does it mean in light of how long you’ve been with the organization to be the team that gets over the playoff drought?
“It’s priceless. I’ve worked hard for it since Day 1. I think every guy has been locked in and been resilient throughout the ups and downs this year. I think guys have earned it. It’s been fun.”
You talked about this team being special. Do this team guys get a bounce in confidence that it really can be special?
Definitely. Guys are going to be confident, but still have to think about the way that we got here, working hard and grinding it out. I think guys are definitely going to be more confident but this is new territory for most of us.
What’s the feel of the team after an off day?
“That was a fun one the other night and I think everybody is obviously happy we got that win. We really think we can build on it. We’re going to come to this round swinging, whoever we play against.”
Do you have to guard against the feeling of having accomplished something by winning the first round?
“Just like I’ve said throughout the playoffs, you’ve got to try to keep a level head. A win is a win, a loss is a loss. Can’t try to make too much more out of it.”
Is it important to be able to relax during the playoffs and not consumed by it?
“Yeah. I think when you’re out on the floor you want to be playing very naturally. That’s when you play your best. You can’t stress to much about it. Any time you stress too much about anything, you’re not going to get the best results.”
Have you encountered just how excited fans are?
“I’ve been getting a lot of props in the streets. People are excited. I love that. I can’t walk around without being bothered in the streets and I’m having a great time with that.”
What does it mean to you, in light of how long you’ve been with the the franchise, being a part of the team that finally gets out of the first round?
“It’s huge. It’s been 14 years for this organization. Me, I’ve been here for six years now and my first three years I’m in the playoffs, lost in the first round. Been some up and downs with injuries and everything. Changing every coaching staff, new players. To finally pass the first round that way, it’s huge. It’s huge for me, huge for LA, too. He’s been there for a while. Wes, too. That’s big for us.”
You’ve said “I don’t want to go back to France at the end of April. I want to be here in May.” Now that you’re here, are you satisfied?
“I’m not satisfied; I’m happy. My mom told me ‘You better miss my birthday this year.’ My mom’s birthday is May 5, tomorrow. Every time I was in France for my mom’s birthday. So she challenged me this year. So I’m going to miss my mom’s birthday tomorrow for the first time.
“I could feel it. You could feel since Day 1 this team is going to be different. We’re young, nobody expect something from us, but we know who we are. Now that we’re out of the first round, good. Win the next four.”
“The excitement is starting to creep in, waiting for our matchup and see where our destiny lays.”
After your years in Portland, what does it mean to you to be a part of the team that finally gets past the first round?
“It means a lot. That’s something that you always want to do. It’s playoffs and it’s advancing, it’s moving on, it’s what you watch on TV growing up. To be a part of it, period, it’s special and something that’s never taken for granted. But to be a part of an organization, a proud organization like this that has been in a drought the way it has, it’s a good feeling.”
Can you appreciate the historical element?
“Yeah. It’s a long time. It’s a long time of good teams. I think it shows the toughness of the West and how valuable and how precious this is.”
Have you got a sense of how crazy things are around the city over you guys?
“I went home. I didn’t see any craziness. I know it’s buzzing, I know the excitement is there and I know they’re waiting to see who we’ll face, too.”