Brandon Roy, Trail Blazers Stumped as Struggles Continue
"There's nobody coming back that's going to rescue us," McMillan said.
It may take an emotional rescue as well. After a dispiriting 98-96 loss to the Nets, the Blazers held a players-only "talk."
The Blazers didn't need 40 minutes as the Heat did on Saturday, but the Blazers find themselves at .500 and they don't like it.
"We talked," Wes Matthews Jr. said. "We talked about what we need to do. We don't feel we're an 8-8 team. That's the gist of it.
"The thing with the NBA is you have a whole bunch of games to play in a short span of time so you have to (forget) this one and move on to the next one."
This loss, however, won't be easy to forget for the simple reason that it has looked like many of the other Trail Blazers' losses this season: play well for three quarters, get stagnant in the fourth, watch a lead -- or a game within reach -- slip away.
You could hear the disappointment -- and slight irritation -- in Matthews' voice, which was barely above a whisper.
Did Nate talk?
"The whole team talked," Matthews said. "We talked."
Were the coaches in there?
Was it frank? Honest?
"Yeah, it has to be."
Who did most of the talking?
"Everybody," Matthews said. "No one likes to lose in here."
It was easy to see that the topic of losing, and why they're losing, makes the Trail Blazers uncomfortable. In addition to the players-only postgame chat, McMillan could only shake his head in the postgame press conference. With 104 regular season wins in the last two seasons, the Trail Blazers aren't used to being average.
"It's difficult," Blazers guard Brandon Roy said, "dealing with the losing. That's the hardest part about it."
Roy thinks the Blazers play well for the first 36 minutes of the game and then grow stale and "predictable and easy to guard" in the final 12 minutes. When asked why he thinks the Blazers become stagnant in the fourth quarter, Roy couldn't put his finger on it.
"We'll go back and watch film," Roy said. "It's kind of been that way the whole season ... Even games we've won, we've been down in the fourth. We have to figure that out."
"We have to be able to flow a little bit better in the fourth quarter of games."
For McMillan, executing the offense and taking and making open shots would be a start. Support for the older, creakier starters from the youthful legs on the bench would also act as a cure for what ails the Blazers.
McMillan knows he needs his vets -- Roy, Andre Miller, LaMarcus Aldridge and Marcus Camby -- to carry this team. But this is the Blazers' conundrum. The vets need rest, specifically Roy, who is limited to 30 to 35 minutes per game because of an arthritic left knee. Roy, who had a team-high 21 points in 35 minutes, admits not finishing the first and third quarters has taken some getting used to.
"The sitting out is a little different," Roy said. "I'm used to playing more of the third. I'm used to closing out quarters. It's a little different coming back in when a team is on a run.
"It's something we'll work through and something we'll get used to as a team. But coming out of that first quarter and third quarter, I'm trying to figure out how to get my flow back."
The Blazers need Roy to flourish. He's dynamic with the ball in his hands and the only Portland player who can create his own shot. Forcing his way back into the offense after sitting out could be part of the problem. After being the tortoise for so long, the Blazers, who have played at the slowest pace in the league the last two seasons, have had trouble being the hare when they need to get moving.
"It's tough, because he's a big one guy who can create offense for you," McMillan said. "It forces other guys, who must play better, (to) take on some of that load, carry that team.
"It's where we are: who do we go to and where can we get consistency."
And because the consistency hasn't been there for Roy, it hasn't been there for the Blazers.
"It's been frustrating," Roy said. "I've always been pretty good late in games and to get my rhythm back and timing back. I felt some shots were in the hole, but came back out.
"The biggest thing is to keep playing. We just have to flow better late in games where we're not just going iso and one-on-five."
The Trail Blazers were hoping to get their four-game East Coast swing off on the right foot, but with the loss to the Nets and a back-to-back with the Sixers and Celtics on Tuesday and Wednesday, McMillan will need to find a way to rest his vets, and the Blazers will need to find a way to grind it out, because to a man, they know have no other choice.