* Tonight on TNT: Game 2: Blazers vs. Nuggets (9 ET)
DENVER — Terry Stotts has his schedule locked in through Mother’s Day.
Same goes for Damian Lillard.
That would take the Blazers’ coach and star point guard through Game 7 of their Western Conference semifinal series against the Denver Nuggets, themselves hunkered down and prepared to go the distance in this series, if need be.
Game 2 is Wednesday night and both sides seem resigned to the fact that the victor won’t get out of this series anytime soon.
The Blazers are undaunted after coming up short in Monday’s Game 1, when the Nuggets capitalized on 18 Portland turnovers and turned them into 23 points in a 121-113 win.
“It’s a seven-game series,” Stotts said Tuesday. “I think both teams feel like they can play better. I read where coach [Michael] Malone and their players seem to think they can play better. We think we can play better. That’s part of a NBA series.
“There’s certainly a lot we could have done better. And when you have a chance to go back and watch it on video, you need that confidence going into the next game. A lot of it was at the defensive end. Offensively, the turnovers were a big concern. Hopefully, we’ll take care of that. But defensively there were a lot of areas we could clean up.”
The Blazers had no answer for Nikola Jokic, who played a fantastic all-around game and took advantage of every defender Stotts tried on him.
But the Nuggets didn’t fare much better against Lillard, who had his way with them to the tune of a game-high 39 points.
“He still had 39 points, so we still have to do a better job and I think we will,” Nuggets guard Gary Harris said. “We just have to continue to stay locked in, continue to come back and get ready and just look at the film and look at the areas we can get better.”
Any data you want to utilize from each team’s first-round series may not apply here. Not only is the style completely different, but also the sense of urgency shifts — given what’s at stake for the winner — has shifted into high gear.
“It’s a completely different game and opponent,” Malone said. “From Derrick White and DeMar DeRozan, who are not known as 3-point shooters, to guarding CJ [McCollum] and Damian Lillard, who are very efficient 3-point shooters. So your mindset has to change there on that alone, the personnel.
“But now, I think going into this series, Damian Lillard in the first round, he was averaging 33 pick-and-rollls per game. That’s a crazy number. Your bigs are under constant duress, constant pressure to guard and contain, as are your smalls.”
Lillard and McCollum promise to keep the pressure on, but must forget what worked and didn’t work against in the first round and focus on the Nuggets.
Attacking Denver’s perimeter defenders might not produce the same results that did against the Thunder, as Denver boasts an assortment of longer and more active defenders. With only a day between games to make adjustments, mistakes must be kept to a minimum.
“Every series is going to be different,” Lillard said. “Teams are different. The first round is not the second round. The Thunder are not the Nuggets. So I think your approach … obviously, that’s why you prepare so completely different. But the mentality has to stay the same as far as what we’re trying to get done.
“Being aggressive, being connected, doing everything together. I think in that way it’s the same. They’re a completely different team. And all that said, we had a chance to win the game … so in the end it’s just one game.”
There’s a chance for six more in this series. And both sides seem prepared for as much.
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