After some sharp words from coach Terry Stotts, the Trail Blazers on Thursday received a message: It’s time to get serious about this season.
“I can’t call back exactly what he said,’’ veteran Ed Davis said. “But it had to do with we have big aspirations and we are not playing up to that.’’
After blowing a 17-point lead with seven minutes to go against a subpar Charlotte team, the Blazers were pushed into overtime, where some big plays from Maurice Harkless finally got them over the hump in a 109-103 victory.
Normally a mild-mannered coach who teaches through positive reinforcement, Stotts, players say, laid into his team afterward, and it left a mark.
“He knows we are capable of much more,’’ CJ McCollum said. “We haven’t played our best basketball. We have been pissing away games and not executing. We have to do some things better so we are not in those situations where … we could have lost tonight.’’
Often times this season, the Blazers players have been outwardly positive following wins with subpar play. Not Thursday.
“Unacceptable,’’ Davis said. “We want to be one of those elite teams and elite teams don’t play around at home, especially a game we are supposed to win and had control of the whole game.’’
In his postgame address to the media, the Blazers coach was terse, choosing to release one sentence answers through pursed lips in what probably stands as his most uptight and irritated session during his six seasons.
Maybe it was because it’s that time of year. Or maybe it was because the Trail Blazers were so spectacularly awful in the fourth quarter. Or maybe Stotts had just had enough of the up-and-down play.
Whatever the reason, he let the team have it.
Harkless said it was the most angry Stotts has been after a victory, and Meyers Leonard said “he was definitely upset with us” – but both Damian Lillard and Ed Davis said it wasn’t a notable tirade.
“It wasn’t like he was m’fing this, m’fing that – but it was like, ‘This is what it is: we are playing great basketball for three quarters then we (poop) the bed in the fourth and give a team that is not supposed to be in the game a chance to win.’
Lillard said he has seen Stotts more angry, and he noted that the group even laughed at one point.
That humor came via Evan Turner.
According to the players, Stotts at one point realized he was harping after a victory. He caught himself, and said, “I don’t want to be …”
As Stotts started to search for the right word, Turner chirped from his corner stall.
“A Debbie Downer?” Turner asked.
“No,” Stotts said. “I need another one …”
“Negative Nancy?’’ Turner retorted?
As Stotts pondered Nancy, Turner added another one:
The last one busted up everyone in the room.
“It definitely helped lighten the mood,’’ Harkless said.
The win ended a three game losing streak and pushed the Blazers’ home winning streak to nine, the longest home run in five seasons. Portland (30-25) is in sixth place in the West, one-half game behind Oklahoma City.
As the team boarded a plane later Thursday night for a flight to Sacramento for Friday’s game against the Kings (17-36), it was a group that knows time is running out to back up their own talk that they can be an upper-echelon team.
“We are at a point in the season where we have to start separating ourselves,’’ Davis said. “The games where we need to blow teams out, we need to do that, and tonight was that night.’’
Instead, they got a talking to from their normally laid-back coach.
“He gave us the same message we’ve been preaching all year: we have to be consistent,’’ Harkless said. “When we are consistent we are a pretty good team. But over the course of one game, we can go from really good to average, to good, to average … we just have to maintain.’’