Terry Stotts refused to admit on Monday that the fifth game of playoff series tied 2-2 always looms extra large. Rest assured that Stotts, an NBA lifer, either knows the numbers exactly or at least has a visceral understanding of them: The team that takes Game 5 goes on to advance 83 percent of the time.
Whether he's alerting his team to that reality or not, don't be concerned about the Trail Blazers coming out flat on Tuesday night against the Denver Nuggets. As Stotts told reporters, Portland's level of edge and intensity from the opening tip has been an X-factor in the first round.
"We need to have that same approach as far as being locked in, being aggressive, knowing the gameplan," he said. "All the things that we've been talking about and sustain it like we did in Game 4."
The Blazers didn't have that approach in Game 2 and it immediately showed on the scoreboard. Damian Lillard has been reminding his teammates that their collective mindset going into that disappointing loss simply wasn't good enough.
"This ain’t a situation where we need to be just, ‘Alright, lock in. We need to have this game,'" he said. "We said that after Game 1 and we went out there and got blasted. We gotta walk the walk on this one. This is the big one. This is it right here. I think everybody is on the same page with that."
Both Portland and Denver have spoken often and openly about being the aggressor on Tuesday night at Ball Arena. In an evenly matched series where tension and tempers have already boiled over, expect more of the same in Game 5.
The team that responds with the right blend of calm, cool and competitive fire will have the best chance of advancing past the first round. And if the Blazers follow the lead of their veteran coach and franchise superstar, there's no reason why it shouldn't be them.