By Scott Spangler

Portland Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan was visibly upset after his team dropped Game 1 in Dallas to the Mavericks Saturday night. After seeing the Mavericks shoot six more free throws in the fourth quarter than the Blazers did the entire contest, McMillan voiced his displeasure.

“The free throws, I just don’t get that,” McMillan said. “It’s hard for our guys to know how to play out there when it’s called a little different. And I felt like we were attacking and guys really didn’t know how to play with the fouls that we’re being called.”

Look, this is what a coach is supposed to do. Despite the rumblings out of that locker room or Portland, Nate would not be doing his job if he failed to lay into officiating fresh off this loss. Basically, this is Phil Jackson 101.

After watching the game last night, it was apparent the Mavericks had to change things up after going nearly 11 minutes without scoring. This is a team well-known for “settling” late in games. Dallas is a perimeter-oriented bunch, and they were playing right into Portland’s hands.

Dirk Nowitzki proceeded to force the issue. He drove the ball from the right baseline, got a call. Then another. When it was all over, Dirk ended up attempting (and hitting) 13 free throws.

Nate McMillan’s club would shoot only twice from the line in the fourth quarter compared to 19 for the Mavs. Whether you are of the opinion the calls were questionable or not, the discrepancy certainly affected the outcome.

“A lot of touch fouls and I thought that turned momentum and pretty much gave them control of the game in the fourth quarter,” McMillan said. “This game was pretty much decided at the line in the fourth quarter.”

Again, this is the game coaches must play in the playoffs. Was Nate legitimately irritated with the fouls? No doubt, he was. But this is a series. And any coach worth his salt realizes the media is a tool to campaign, to plant a seed. He realizes it might be the difference in a pivotal call late Tuesday night.

Expect a softening of his stance between now and then, but not too much. The message is out there and it lingers. NBA officials are human and while they may think to themselves, this sort of talk will not affect how a game should be called, more often than not it seems there is overcompensation the other way. Call me crazy, but that’s how I see it.

Should Dallas be be outshot by 15 attempts in Game Two, I would expect to hear some of the same out of Rick Carlisle.