The Trail Blazers have maintained their playoff position despite recent setbacks
The Trail Blazers have managed to hold onto the sixth spot in the Western Conference playoffs despite suffering big losses recently. Portland has lost three games in their last five by 15 points or more, but they have somehow kept pace with the rest of the field. The huge run that Portland went on in February is proving even more valuable now. This also goes to show how top heavy the Western Conference is this year.
The Trail Blazers could actually jump the Grizzlies and claim the fifth seed from them. Memphis is decimated by injuries right now. They have gone 5-5 in their last ten contests and it could get worse before it gets better. The Mavericks are also a mess, as the team is having a tough time working out their rotations down the stretch. Dallas has stumbled to a 4-6 record in their last ten, which is one game behind the pace of both the Grizzlies and the Trail Blazers.
The two biggest threats to Portland appear to be the Rockets and the Jazz. Outside of the top four of the Western Conference, only two teams post a positive point differential. Those two teams are the Trail Blazers (+0.7) and the Jazz (+0.8). Utah is coming off a huge win against the Cav’s, but the schedule doesn’t get any easier for them. They play one more home game (against the Suns) before heading out on a five game road trip. It is important to note that the Trail Blazers own the tie breaker over the Jazz, which could be huge in a tight race.
That leaves the Rockets as the last true threat to leap frog the Trail Blazers. Of all the teams mentioned above the Rockets are the most dangerous. They are loaded with talent and have a bunch of playoff experience. Internal problems have held them back throughout the year (coaching change, trade rumors surrounding Dwight Howard), but they still have time to figure things out before the playoffs roll around. They also play a home friendly schedule going forward, with only six games outside of Houston down the stretch.
It is easy to get caught up with the feel good story surrounding Portland this year, but it is important that they fight for playoff positioning. With a player as hungry as Damian Lillard onboard it shouldn’t be a problem. Picking up some wins on the current road trip will be a major step in the right direction.