Blazers get opportunity to bounce back Thursday

After stunning collapse against Warriors, Portland visits Utah

By Matt Calkins, Columbian Sports Reporter

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TUALATIN, Ore. — There are rules in sports that date back to the days of peach baskets and leather helmets.

— Never, ever say publicly which team you’d rather play in the playoffs.

— Never, ever express an inkling of joy in the locker room following a loss.

Nobody from the Trail Blazers wants to confess that the Mavericks would be the best match-up for them in the postseason, nor was anybody willing to admit that there was some satisfaction in locking down a playoff berth Tuesday night after a 21-point loss to the Warriors.

But one day removed from that fiasco, Nate McMillan was able to reflect when asked if Portland’s playoff bid came with a sense of accomplishment.

“Of course, of course, of course. This team has overcome a lot and has battled their way into a playoff berth,” he said. “So now we get that opportunity with four games remaining in the sixth spot, and the focus is to mentally and physically get yourself ready for the postseason as well as trying to get that sixth position.”

Talent and deep playoff runs aren’t always the recipe for fond memories with given teams. Before even reaching the Final Four this year, UConn coach Jim Calhoun said that his team had a special place in his heart despite having squads that went on to win championships.

So given all that they have endured this year injury-wise, do the Blazers’ players feel similarly about this year’s team?

LaMarcus Aldridge does.

“We fought through a lot of adversity. When you lose your All-Star, your main guy, you know, we weathered the storm,” he said. “This is the most resilient team that I’ve been on as far as losing guys.”

Aldridge was referring to Brandon Roy, who has missed 34 games this year and is averaging 12.6 points when he does play.

Roy will appear tonight when the Blazers play at Utah, but the team will be without starting center Marcus Camby.

Camby suffered a neck strain Tuesday night after Golden State’s David Lee landed on his head following a rebound attempt. The center did not travel with the Blazers to Utah, although his status for Friday’s home game against the Lakers is unknown. Camby has already missed 20 games this season.

But Camby’s absence will apparently be the only loss still affecting the Blazers in Salt Lake City tonight. Ask around, and that head-scratching defeat at the hands of the Warriors is well behind them.

McMillan said the team didn’t even watch game tape, and the players say that it was more of a fluke that it was foreshadowing.

“I think for the most part since the All-Star break, we’ve played well,” point guard Andre Miller said. “We came off a tough month of March, it was the toughest month of the year. We had a let down last night.”

It doesn’t get much easier from here.

The Jazz (37-41) may have derailed since Jerry Sloan resigned as coach and point guard Deron Williams was traded in February, but that hardly makes tonight an easy win for the Blazers — especially when they have to play in EnergySolutions Arena. Utah does still have a winning record on its home court and is coming off a win Tuesday over the Lakers.

“It’s always tough to play in Utah,” Aldridge said.

Matt Calkins can be contacted at 360-735-4528 or matt.calkins@columbian.com