Way back in October, when I first analyzed the Portland Trail Blazers schedule, I noted how difficult March would be for the team. Six games in, and only 2-4 in those games, the month is indeed not getting off to a great start. Truthfully, it won’t get easier for the team, although that doesn’t mean it can’t get better.
The Blazers have 11 games remaining in March, with a whopping seven of them on the road. In addition to the current road trip they are stumbling through, the Blazers have another five game road trip later in the month, featuring stops in Miami and Chicago, two teams notorious for playing tough at home. And, one of those four home games comes against the Grizzlies, who are 2-0 against the Blazers on the season and have already won the season series.
These difficulties are compounded because the team is currently fighting for their lives to secure a more favorable playoff seed. It is now apparent that the team’s primary goal going forward is merely securing home court advantage in the playoffs, which is unsurprisingly what everyone else is also fighting tooth and nail for. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – with home court advantage, the Blazers could go toe to toe with anyone in a seven game series.
Sadly, a quick glance at the current standings turns ugly fast, as you realize the Blazers are now a full two games out of the fourth seed. Perhaps even scarier, though, is that Golden State is now only one and a half games behind the Blazers. The definitive goal is to get home field advantage, but if that is a lost cause, things become less important in the fifth through eighth spots, so being overtaken by Golden State may not mean a whole lot.
Either way, the Blazers have quite a grind ahead of them. If they want to succeed in the playoffs, they need to be able to mentally endure these tough stretches, so there are always lessons to be learned. This current three game slide is pretty discouraging, but if there is a close game in the playoffs, you can bet these recent, close losses will be burning in the young team’s mind.
For as bad as March will be, April luckily throws a bone to the sure to be fatigued Trail Blazers. Five of the Blazers’ final six games take place in the comfort of their very own Moda Center, a welcome respite for weary legs. Additionally, the lone away game is against the lowly Jazz, who will honestly probably be trying to play to avoid injury. If the team needs a late season push, the schedule is more than giving them the opportunity.
Lastly, the Blazers’ final two games of the season are against the Clippers and Warriors. Both games will be at home, and they are sure to be doozies. Both will be ripe with playoff implications – the Warriors could try to definitively surge ahead of the Blazers, and the game against the Clippers could very well be a playoff preview. Time will tell, but certainly circle those dates.