How High Can They Climb?
At this point in the NBA season, the Portland Trail Blazers are fighting for home-court advantage in the 2014 playoffs. The team hasn’t been to the postseason since 2011, and the question is: Do they need home-court advantage to make the second round for the first time since 2000?
As of April 10 at 12:00 a.m. PT, here’s how the standings look in the brutally tough Western Conference:
- San Antonio Spurs (60-18)
- Oklahoma City Thunder (57-21)
- Los Angeles Clippers (55-24)
- Houston Rockets (52-26)
- Portland Trail Blazers (51-28)
- Golden State Warriors (48-29)
- Dallas Mavericks (48-31)
- Phoenix Suns (47-31)
At this point, home-court advantage looks like a pipe dream. The Houston Rockets have a one-and-a-half-game lead over Portland for fourth, but more importantly, the schedule favors Clutch City more than it does Rip City with one week to go.
To clarify: Since Houston lost tonight, Portland has to win tonight & their next 3. HOU would have to drop 3 of their last 4 for POR to jump
— Erik Gundersen (@blazerbanter) April 10, 2014
With three games remaining in Portland’s schedule, the team’s biggest competition when it comes to seeding is the Golden State Warriors. The team from Oakland started the year with injuries and letdowns, but a strong finish has helped it move up the rankings, opposite the path Portland has taken throughout the season (for the most part).
Golden State also has a friendlier schedule than Portland down the stretch.
As it turns out, the Blazers and Warriors face off on Sunday, April 13, in what should be the most important contest of the year for both organizations. The winner of that matchup has a very real chance of earning fifth place in the conference, earning a matchup against the Rockets in Round 1 of the postseason.
Neither the Blazers nor the Warriors have a great chance at taking over fourth, but matchups are everything this time of year. Although Houston is flooded with talent such as Dwight Howard, James Harden and Chandler Parsons, the team looks a bit more vulnerable than it did just a few weeks back following the injury to Patrick Beverly.
Despite being a bad match for Portland all year, Houston has become a bit less dangerous sans its best perimeter defender. Combine that with the fact that neither Harden nor Jeremy Lin can defend the perimeter, and scoring guards such as Damian Lillard and Stephen Curry have a big-time advantage.
If Portland is able to take down the Warriors on April 13, give it the fifth seed (most likely). Unfortunately, a loss pushes them out of fifth and into sixth, which is a very real possibility.
Luckily for the Blazers, the sixth seed earns them a series with the Los Angeles Clippers, and while L.A. has gotten deeper since the trade deadline, their three faceoffs thus far have been extremely competitive. These two teams play in the very last game of the regular season, and chances are, they will see each other just a few days later in the first round of the NBA playoffs.