PORTLAND – Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan is dismissing any debate over the “underdog” in the series between Portland and the Dallas Mavericks.
Simply put, there isn’t one, McMillan asserted Thursday.
“We don’t fear Dallas. We respect them. We believe we can win,” McMillan said. “We were even this year. Both teams split and both teams won on their home court. We know where we are and who we’re playing against.”
The sixth-seeded Blazers prepared for their first-round playoff series against the third-seeded Mavericks on Thursday at the team’s practice facility in Tualatin, Ore. The team will also practice at home this morning before leaving on Saturday for Dallas.
The series kicks off Saturday night at the American Airlines Center.
The underdog chatter was touched off by comments Dallas guard Jason Terry made after the Mavericks defeated the New Orleans Hornets 121-89 in the regular-season finale Wednesday night.
The Lakers beat the Sacramento Kings, pushing Dallas to the third seed. Portland had already wrapped up the sixth spot.
“All seven other teams wanted to play us,” Terry told the Dallas Morning News. “Now, we’re the underdog and we’re going out fighting every night.”
The Blazers and the Mavericks split their regular season series, with each team winning twice on its home court. Each of the games was decided by eight or fewer points.
Portland shot 47.8 percent from the field against the Mavs, while Dallas shot 51 percent against the Blazers.
The Blazers lead the all-time series against the Mavericks 72-57, and lead 9-5 in playoff games.
Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge speculated that Terry was pulling out the underdog card to motivate his team.
“They’re a really good team with a lot of options,” Aldridge said. “That’s what they’re saying. We still have to go out and play.”
Portland forward Gerald Wallace wasn’t going to engage in the back-and-forth talk.
“I don’t want to hear it,” Wallace said. “I’m done, no comment.”