Of the teams fighting for a playoff spot, Portland stands out among the rest. The Blazers have a good deal of experience against the best teams in the league. Just over a year ago, they were in the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors.
Tied for 9th in the West, the Blazers have a mere 13% chance of taking the 8th seed, but they might be the biggest threat to Memphis regardless of the odds.
The Blazers’ Schedule*
7/31 Portland vs. Memphis 1:00 PM
8/2 Portland @ Boston 12:30 PM
8/4 Portland vs. Houston 6:00 PM
8/6 Portland @ Denver 5:00 PM
8/8 Portland vs. Los Angeles Clippers 10:00 AM
8/9 Portland vs. Philadelphia 3:30 PM
8/11 Portland @ Dallas 2:00 PM
8/13 Portland @ Brooklyn TBD
*all times are PST
The Blazers have the 5th toughest schedule in the restart and the toughest schedule among the teams in the running for the 8th seed in the West. If you count the Mavericks as a likely playoff team, the Blazers are set to face seven playoff teams in their eight matchups.
Memphis is the only team not with a locked spot in the Playoffs that Portland is set to face. Instead, the Grizzles serve as the biggest threat to keeping the Blazers out of the final eight teams in the west. In their first and only matchup of the season, the Grizzles defeated the Trail Blazers 111-104. Ja Morant came out with a 20 point, 9 assist, 5 rebound game.
Similar to Sacramento, Portland has to win around 5-6 games to have a reasonable shot at a play-in tournament. Their schedule is going to be a good deal tougher than the Kings or the Pelicans. The key advantage the Blazers possess is their experience.
Portland’s Potential In The Playoffs
Portland has been a Western Conference contender for several years. The Trail Blazers are on a six-year playoff streak. Their most successful run occurred just last year when they cracked into the Western Conference Finals. Despite being swept, Portland fought hard in each game and there was a lot of excitement for next season.
The struggles for Portland began early in the season after their playoff run. The Trail Blazers fought for a .500 record throughout, but it was clear that the absence of Jusuf Nurkic was hurting the team. Not to say that the entire team was on the ropes. Point guard Damian Lillard who is having a career year averaging 28.9 PPG, 7.8 APG, and 4.3 RPG, Lillard has even earned himself some MVP recognition for his efforts. The season was still winding down and Portland’s postseason hopes were dwindling.
Months later, Portland looks like a completely different team. The return of center Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins has sparked hope in fans and the team. In a scrimmage against the Raptors, Nurkic (who up until the shutdown was out for the season with a broken leg) tallied 17 points and 13 rebounds. Hassan Whiteside also made a return to play after overcoming a calf injury. Collins rounds out the lineup of now-healthy big men for the Blazers after recovering from a dislocated shoulder. The three of them add a major inside presence, the shortest of the trio being Collins at 6’11”.
Portland is also regarded as a contender among the top teams of the conference. Lakers guard Danny Green had a few comments on the Blazers potentially making the Playoffs and facing Los Angeles in the first round.
“I wouldn’t say that we fear anybody, but if we were to choose to have a first round matchup, I think we’d probably lean away from Portland. They have more experience, they have Damian Lillard, they have CJ McCollum. They have a lot of threats, and they have a lot of experience,” said Green. Portland might have a hard time squeezing into the Playoff picture, but they might be the team most equipped to overcome the odds. Their first game is this Friday against the Memphis Grizzles.