Since I last wrote about the Portland Trail Blazers’ potential playoff seeding, things have gone more favorably than expected. As it currently stands, the Blazers have clawed their way back into sitting only a one game behind the Houston Rockets for the coveted fourth seed in the Western Conference.
The good news is that getting home court advantage is possible. The bad news is that it is still a long shot. The Blazers have two games remaining – against the Warriors and the Clippers, both at home. To keep the home court advantage dream alive, these games both need to be turned into wins, no questions asked.
The Clippers game, the last of the season, could go a couple different ways. If the Oklahoma City Thunder have wrapped up the second seed by the time the Clippers and Blazers play, the Clippers would have nothing to play for, especially since they have the head-to-head tiebreaker against the Rockets clinched. Doc Rivers, the Clippers head coach, has always been cognizant of resting his players, and he could then opt to do this, giving, in theory, the Blazers an easier time.
The game against the Warriors will be a whole different story, though. This one is going to be a spirited, feisty, brawl from start to finish. The Warriors will be fighting tooth and nail to take over the fifth seed from the Blazers, while the Blazers will be holding onto the aforementioned sliver of home court advantage hope.
On the other half of the equation, for this all to work out, the Blazers will need copious amounts of help from the Rockets. The Rockets have two games remaining – at home against the Spurs and then on the road against the Pelicans. The Rockets must lose both of these games. Again, this is the only path for the Blazers to earn home court advantage, since the Rockets hold the head-to-head tiebreaker.
Unfortunately, at this point, the chances for two Rockets’ losses don’t look so great. The Pelicans are well out of the playoff race, and have nothing left to play for. Additionally, their franchise player, Anthony Davis, has been shut down for the season. Again, this is the NBA, and the players are good enough for anything to happen, but when a playoff team with everything left to play for plays a team with nothing left to play for (absent their star player), the odds of the upset are not so great.
And, to cap it off, the game against the Spurs, which would have had potential to be a hard one for the Rockets, may only come against the Spurs backups. The Spurs have officially clinched the best record in the whole league, so they have approximately nothing left to play for in the regular season either.
Head Coach Gregg Popovich, who is notorious for resting his players throughout the season, will almost certainly take advantage of this situation to give his players even more rest. While you never want to count out the Spurs bench, it looks as if Houston should have an easy time with this one as well.
In conclusion, yes, home court advantage is still attainable, but no, it will not be easy. Crazier things have happened, however, so this is why the games are still played.