With season’s end just 3 games away for the Trail Blazers, it’s still hard to guess which team they’ll be matched up against in the first round of the playoffs. They currently hold the sixth spot in the West with a 1/2-game lead over the Hornets, however, the Hornets hold the tie-breaker. If they earn the 6th seed, the Blazers will almost certainly play either the Mavs or the Thunder, whereas a 7th seed finish would more-likely pit them against the Lakers. I think avoiding the Lakers at all costs is a good thing, so these final games are far from meaningless.
Portland’s three remaining games include the Lakers at home tonight, the Grizz at home, and the Warriors on the road. Not an easy schedule, especially considering Portland’s recent struggles against the Warriors (3-4 last two seasons) and the fact that the Grizzlies have a higher margin of victory than the Blazers themselves, as well as four Eastern Conference playoff teams.
The Hornets match up against the Suns, the Grizzlies, the Jazz and the Mavs. Also not an easy schedule. The Blazers have a one game edge in the win column while the Hornets have that tie-breaker, so the 6th seed may very well be a coin flip of a prediction at this point. We can, however, be fairly confident that the Blazers will match up against the Lakers or the Mavs in the first round, with an outside chance at meeting the Thunder. How do we stack up?
First of all, since the mid-season trade for Gerald Wallace, Portland is 13-8 (62%) with a +4.3 point differential. These are the figures teams like the Mavs and Thunder have been putting up all season. If they truly are this much better with Wallace, then the Blazers are playing like a 3/4 seed right now, and that’s definitely a good thing.
In terms of matchups, looking just at head-to-head from the season is a small sample size to work with, so I’m going to supplement it a little bit. The Blazers play a slow game. In fact, it’s the slowest in the league. Here’s how they’re potential first-round opponents matched up against the seven slowest teams in the league, including Portland.
|vs. Blazers||vs. Slowest Teams|
|Team||Win %||MoV||Win %||MoV|
Not only did the Blazers do the best against the Mavs, but the Mavs in general play much worse than the other two against slow teams. The sample size against all slow teams here was 17 games for each team, much better than the three or four head-to-heads during the season.
Basically, I’m really hoping we catch the Mavs, or at least that we don’t have to take on the Lakers in the first round. A win tonight would inch us closer to the 6th seed, while simultaneously giving the Mavs a chance to make up ground on the Lakers. However, by winning the season series, the Lakers would still be in the driver’s seat for the 2-seed with that tie-breaker over the Mavs. So a win tonight could also go a long way toward avoiding LA early in the playoffs.
7:00 PM tonight…RIP CITY BABY!