As we all know the Blazers’ have clinched their spot in the NBA’s annual regular season after-party, so Blazer fans can all take a deep breath. Do it now. Feel good? Now let the speculation begin. This season has been quite the journey, full of injuries, doubt and crazy off-the-court stories. The only good I think anyone can completely agree on from this season is that we did not sign Hedo Turkoglu. Seriously….great move. It was not too long ago when the Blazers and their faithful were throwing around the words ‘winning the division’, ‘championship contender’ and ‘Conference Finals’ like they were nothing. Coming into this year it was unanimous that just making the playoffs would not be good enough: damnit, this team had to finally make some noise. And not only did they have to…they were going to. Feels like a long time ago right? It was. Don’t believe me? I don’t even remember having that kind of swagger. Even worse, I bet for every Blazer fan there was a time this season where their mind wandered toward the lottery and they almost came to grips with it. That period of doubt and despair did not last for too long and things looked up. For a while, Portland was firmly locked into the #8 spot, with what at the time looked like little to no room for forward movement. The destiny seemed to be a matchup with the Lakers and there was nothing we could do about it. Tisk tisk, we all forgot about how zany the Western Conference is. The Conference where seeds change about as much as teenagers change their minds about wanting to be together.
As of today (and surely this post will be dated the day after you read it), Portland has fallen back to the #8 seed, tied with the San Antonio Spurs and are a game behind Oklahoma City for the #6 seed. These two teams who are determined to apparently not lose anymore games this season with victories over Dallas, Boston and the Lakers over the past week (thanks for the help). And just to add to the wackiness known as the Western Conference, Dallas, Denver, Phoenix and Utah are all tied at 50-27 which means the #2-#5 seeds come down to a whole lot of tiebreakers and things that make my head hurt right now. That is a whole lot of information right there. The only thing that is for certain is that the Lakers will be the #1 seed. I mean…this is a team that has been on one 3-game losing streak in the last couple years, and despite their ‘struggles’ they are not collapsing. Everything else is bananas, which leads me to the question: who is the Blazers ideal opponent in the playoffs?
If you recall last year when we were asking this same question, Portland was fighting for a division title and possible home court advantage. Not this year. Last year we also ended up facing the team we did not match up well with…and you remember the results. What’s the attitude that Blazer fans should have going into the playoffs? Based on the bizarre season and all of the injuries…you’d think I’d preach about just being happy to be in the playoffs. Like one of those bubble teams who backed in to the NCAA Tournament. But I’m not going that route. You want to know why? Ever since the All-Star Break, the Blazers have showed signs of life, signs that they may actually be able to make a little noise this year. This past weeks victories over Dallas and Oklahoma City have shown that, maybe it isn’t quite time to give up on this year, With the right opponent, who knows right? Well who is that opponent? You can cross off San Antonio and Oklahoma City, as there is as much a chance of us facing them as someone saying Kate Gosselin is not a bitch. Yep, we have as much of a chance of facing those two teams as someone saying Kate Gosselin is a good dancer. I really could go on all day here so I’ll stop now.
(Sidenote: I will give Kate this, the new hair is working for her and her body is staggeringly and surprisingly better. I know it’s all plastic surgery but still, after seeing her in HD she has to go in the MILF Hall of Fame. 8 Kids!)
Utah: I don’t know about you, but I want absolutely, positively, no part of the Utah Jazz in the post-season. Without Oden and Pryzbilla there is not a team we match up worse with than Utah. We have known this since January. They are physical, they have big men who can score, and they have a defense that makes you work for every single thing you can get. Does that sound like a team we can beat in a 7-game series. I’m sorry but a matchup with the Jazz is no bueno. And this is without incorporating my feelings about Portland’s inabilities to win in Salt Lake City. In case you needed a reminder, we’ve lost 16 of 18 regular season games in SLC Women lie, men lie, numbers don’t: Utah is 4-0 against Portland this year and none of the games have been close/pretty. Absolutely not. All you need to know about a Blazer/Jazz matchup was summed up in this tweet by Meagher:
50% of Jazz fans want the Blazers in the 1st round (can’t blame em),http://sbnation.com/e/1164811 1000% of Blazers fans DO NOT want Utah.
It’s true. If you’re a Blazer fan who wants to play Utah you’re either super young (and thus super optimistic so stay that way until your dreams got crushed like mine), super high, super stupid or your wife/girlfriend is a Jazz fan and you know a Blazer bashing will result in plenty of bang bang for you. If you’re the latter, I can’t blame you.
Denver: With Marcus Camby on our side and Kenyon Martin iffy for them, you would think I would want a shot at Denver. I’m just not sure about Denver to be honest with you, even after last night. They have the big men to bother LaMarcus and will attempt to disrupt his flow. They always gear their defensive efforts towards not letting Brandon Roy beat them. And it always works as in their 4 games this season, Roy had shot a respectable 40% from the field…down from his 47% percent average on the season. As a matter of fact they were probably one of the first teams in the NBA who swallowed Roy up to the point where I was like “Whoa, we really do rely on him a lot.” They also do an amazing job of capitalizing on Portland’s mistakes, as evidenced by the past two games in Denver. With all that being said, it still feels like we can beat them. Facing Denver wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, I just don’t have much confidence in our ability to beat them. Plus, I don’t know if I really want to root against George Karl/knock them out before he gets a chance to come back but that’s my sensitive side talking.
Phoenix: The Suns have snuck up into the #4 spot so a matchup with them is highly unlikely. Portland actually won the season series against the Suns for the first time since I believe the 1999-00 season when they took 3 out of 4 (The Suns were starting Luc Longley and Tom Gugliotta). I’m not sure I like the Blazers chances against Phoenix in a 7-game series either. Not saying that Portland could not win some games, I just don’t see Portland being able to a) score enough and b) stop Phoenix enough to advance. Also, the Suns are arguably one of the hottest teams in the NBA right now. They have won 22 of their last 27 games. I’d like to avoid the hot team thank you very much.
Lakers: I put them this high because of the intensity the series would bring. But I’d be crazy if I said I wanted the Lakers in the first round. There’s a reason you rarely see NCAA Tournament teams do a fist pump whenthey get an 8 or 9 seed, because they get the #1 seed earlier than they would like. No thanks.
Dallas: And here they are, the team I believe that the Blazers can beat in a 7-game series. First off, they are in a world of hurt right now. Ok let me correct myself…they are in as much of a world of hurt as a 50 win team can be. I mainly like this matchup because we can throw LMA and Batum at Dirk and fluster him. I think our defensive personnel matches up well with them. We can get them stagnant and running isolations on offense. Their defense is not exactly the bees knees and they tend to play sporadically. This is a team that is still ‘finding itself’ with 5 games left in the season. They
This is Portland’s best chance to get out of the first round