After a huge win in the Staples Center last night over the rival Lakers, the Blazers find themselves in three-way tie for 6th in the Western Conference. In a prime example of what he does for this Blazer team, Camby put Portland up one with an offensive rebound put-back in the last minute. Then, in what can only be described as ugly, stupid basketball, Martell made more free throws than Kobe and Fisher over the last 20 seconds and the Blazers won by 3. Because of another three-way tie for third place out West, we really have no idea which team Portland will face to start its 2010 playoff campaign. The candidates are the Lakers, Mavericks, Nuggets, Jazz and Suns, and here is how Portland performed against those teams this season…
Lakers: 2-1, -1.67 scoring margin
Mavericks: 3-1, +3.00 scoring margin
Nuggets: 1-3, -5.25 scoring margin
Jazz: 0-4, -11.00 scoring margin
Suns: 2-1, +1.33 scoring margin
I think, even with a small sample size, it’s pretty clear the Blazers don’t want a first-round match up against the Nuggets, or especially against the Jazz. That being said, the Blazers are playing the best basketball of their season right now. With Batum and Camby back into a lineup that has finally been solidified, Portland’s has outscored opponents by 6.3 points per game over its last 20. Over that same span, the Blazer’s offensive and defensive efficiencies rank second and ninth in the entire league, and it’s no surprise that they’ve posted a scorching 15-5 record.
Regardless of their first round opponent, the Blazers will enter the playoffs playing as well as they have all year and will have a legitimate shot to beat any one of those five teams in a seven game series. Even though Portland lost to the Utah Jazz with Camby in the lineup back in February, it was a game that saw Portland dominate for two and half quarters before falling flat in an overtime loss. While it was a frustrating game to watch, it showed that the Blazers could compete with the Jazz after being outscored in their first three matchups by 40 (combined). So hope (or pray) for the Mavs or the Suns, but know that Portland can compete with anyone in this league come playoff time.