Portland Trailblazers: Everything we need to know before the regular season finale

Carmelo Anthony, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Carmelo Anthony, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) /

With only one game left on their schedule, the Portland Trailblazers still have no clue where they will finish in the standings or who they might be facing entering the post-season. Without a doubt, the NBA’s new play-In tournament has created the chaos that the executives intended for the end of the regular season. The Blazers final matchup against the Denver Nuggets could ultimately decide if Portland finishes as high as the fifth seed or drops into the seventh seed and a daunting play-in slot.

Not a single team in the league knows for sure who their first-round opponent will turn out to be. Usually at this point in the season, the contenders are resting and preparing for their most likely first-round opponent.

This season, the only team that has even locked into their seed is the Philadelphia 76ers, having clinched the best record in the East with their victory over the Orlando Magic on Friday.

Sunday’s matchup against the Nuggets could be the Blazers most important game since Game 7 of the 2019 WCSF

Every team in the league plays on Sunday, the final day of the regular season. The Blazers-Nuggets, Mavericks-Pacers, and Lakers-Pelicans games all could have huge impacts on how the Western Conference bracket ends up looking. If the Lakers pull out their last game against the New Orleans Pelicans and the Blazers come up short against the Nuggets, Portland falls to the seventh seed and can look forward to their play-in game. But if Portland defeats Denver and Dallas falls to Indiana, the Blazers will climb to the fifth seed.

The good news is that the Blazers do control their own destiny. No matter what, a victory on Sunday ensures that Portland finishes over the Lakers, due to holding the tiebreaker, and avoids the play-in tournament.

The Mavericks and Nuggets may not have much incentive to win their final regular season games

The Blazers are one of the few teams that do retain some control over their ultimate seeding. The Mavericks and Nuggets first-round matchups are completely up in the air depending on how the other games go.

The Mavericks can secure the fifth seed with a victory over the Pacers but the furthest they can fall is to the sixth seed. If the Nuggets do end up the third seed, Dallas could justify dropping rank to avoid a first-round matchup against Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.

The Nuggets can clinch the third seed with a win over the Trailblazers but doing so could be guaranteeing a first-round bout against the defending champion Lakers.

The Nuggets may be best off resting in their final regular season game against the Blazers. Winning that game could mean opening with a  heavy-weight fight against LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

On the other hand, if they lose, worst-case scenario is that the Thunder out-tank the Clippers on Sunday, the Nuggets fall to fourth, and Denver plays either the Blazers or Mavericks.

The Blazers do not have the luxury to rest

All-in-all, the Blazers were gifted with a blessing and a curse. While they do have the rare ability to control their own destiny to wrap-up this whirlwind regular season, having that opportunity means that they do not have the luxury of resting in the finale.

Portland needs to take advantage of the Nuggets probable load management and step on their throats to secure the sixth seed. Not only would that guarantee them a playoff spot but it would also give Portland their first victory over Denver this season.

Look for the Nuggets to get their first look at nuclear Damian Lillard on Sunday.