19 November 2009
Nate McMillan folded his arms and walked down towards the end of his bench with a little under four minutes left in the game. He’d just watched a 20 point lead against the Detroit Pistons evaporate. Then Portland’s head coach said something he probably didn’t think he’d have to the rest of the night.
“Starters, let’s go.”
With the three-word command, Andre Miller and LaMarcus Aldridge checked back into the game and joined Brandon Roy, Steve Blake and Greg Oden on the floor. Nate wasn’t happy. Then again, he was likely suffering from a flashback of sorts – a painful memory dating back almost two years to the date.
It was November 16, 2007 in Philadelphia. Portland was beating the Sixers by 25 points in the second quarter - 22 points in the third quarter - before it all came crashing down around McMilland and the Blazers. In the end, the Philadelphia beat Portland, 92 – 88 complete with the Sixers mobbing each other in a mid-court celebration.
Andre Miller remembers that game. He played for Philly at the time and finished with 13 points. Brandon Roy remembers that game, and even alluded to it Wednesday night after salvaging an 87-81 win over the Pistons.
“The best thing about this was that we lost a game like this a couple years ago in Philadelphia and it's much better to learn a lesson in a win that it is in a loss," Roy said afterwards.
"I'm just happy we pulled it out and hopefully this doesn't happen again."
Even McMillan’s own words mimiced one meltdown to nearly another.
"It's a lesson learned,'' McMillan said back then, "If you mess with the game, the game will mess with you.”
Minutes after staving off Detroit, it’s as if Nate could have continued the quote even after a twenty-four month dramatic pause.
“It was a good lesson that you play that game 48 minutes and you play in the right way,” a clearly irritated McMillan explained.
“You don’t relax because it’s never over. We had our guys in there and we had to bring back that group the guys there. We stopped doing the things that we needed to do. Anything can happen.”
Anything did happen.
Now it's just a history lesson learned in a win along the way.
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