PORTLAND - Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan is dismissing any debate over the "underdog" in the first-round NBA playoff series between Portland and the Dallas Mavericks.
Simply put, there isn’t one, McMillan said 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 at the team’s practice facility in Tualatin, Ore. The series kicks off Saturday night in Dallas.
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 Los Angles Lakers beat the Sacramento Kings to earn the second seed, behind San Antonio, pushing Dallas to the third seed. Portland had already wrapped up the sixth spot.
“All seven other teams wanted to play us,” Terry said. “Now, we’re the underdog and we’re going out fighting every night.”
In the season series, the Blazers and Mavs each won twice on their home court. All the games were decided by eight points or fewer.
Portland shot 47.8 percent from the field against the Mavs, while Dallas shot 51 percent against the Blazers.
BULLISH ON BULLS
As teams prepare for the playoffs to begin on Saturday, the top-seeded team isn’t the squad that was favored when the season tipped off.
Many observers had the NBA title going to Miami after the Heat brought in superstars LeBron James and Chris Bosh to complement Dwyane Wade. The Heat is seeded No. 2 in the Eastern Conference and could go a long way in the playoffs.
But the Chicago Bulls, led by 22-year-old standout Derrick Rose, are the overall top seed with home-court edge as long as they are alive.
And while veterans Tim Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs, Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers and Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks have their teams seeded first, second and third, respectively, in the Western Conference, one of the hottest teams entering the playoffs is fourth-seeded Oklahoma City.
Spurs guard Manu Ginobili is doubtful for Game 1 against Memphis after spraining his right elbow in the regular-season finale. Atlanta Hawks center Jason Collins’ returned to practice from an ankle injury and will likely play Saturday in the opening game of the first-round series against Orlando. A person familiar with the decision says the Lakers and Phil Jackson each have been fined $75,000 for comments the coach made about collective bargaining. The two fines come a day after the league fined Lakers star Kobe Bryant $100,000 for using a derogatory gay term in frustration over a referee’s call.
FIRST ROUND (BEST OF SEVEN)
Indiana at Chicago, 10 a.m.
Philadelphia at Miami, 12:30 p.m., Ch. 4
Atlanta at Orlando, 4 p.m., ESPN
Portland at Dallas, 6:30 p.m., ESPN
Memphis at San Antonio, 10 a.m., TNT
New Orleans at L.A. Lakers, 12:30 p.m., Ch. 4
New York at Boston, 4 p.m., TNT
Denver at Oklahoma City, 6:30 p.m., TNT