We’re coming down to the final 15 games of the Trail Blazer’s regular season with all eyes on the playoffs. Barring a 7.5 game slip in the playoff standings, the Blazers should hold a top-eight spot in the Western Conference regular season standings with heavy odds landing them as a 3-5 seed. The Western Conference hasn’t been too kind to the Blazers (22-21, worst of all projected to make the playoffs in WC) and their away record, albeit comparable to other playoff teams (16-17) could be a lot worse if not for the 5-2 road trip the Blazers recently wrapped up. With that being said, Blazers will need to shoot for the highest seed possible to retain home court advantage for as many rounds as possible in the playoffs.
Golden State Warriors | 1st seed (46-21, .687)
Record against: (2-1) Golden State was an iconic game for the Blazers in February when they beat them (129-107) at home before the All-Star Break. However, who want’s to face Golden State in the first round of the playoffs? They’re the only playoff team with a win disparity better then +2 in the Western Conference playoff picture (+5) and that’s after a 5-5 recent run in their last 10 games. Could the Blazers win a series against them? They’ve got decent odds, but other match ups favor them more.
Denver Nuggets | 2nd seed (44-22, .667)
Record against: (0-2) Denver is a team Portland has played close in their two losses to Denver, losing by three in Denver and one at home. Portland can certainly compete against them and the two teams will play twice down the stretch in back to back games. This is the last Western Conference playoff opponent Portland will play down before the playoffs and since the teams alternate between home and away, it will almost feel like a mini playoff series. Portland has added some weapons since last playing them, but the Nuggets have Isaiah Thomas healthy off the bench which could be a problem for Portland. This 2-game mini-series will be telling if Portland could do well against them in the playoffs.
Oklahoma City Thunder | 3rd seed (42-26, .618)
Record against: (0-4) The Thunder have had their way with Portland all season, winning every game they’ve played against them. This is possibly the worst match up for Portland based on their record facing them alone. Every game so far this season has been a heated battle, with comments back and forth between players and you can tell the team is determined to break their losing streak against them. Portland would get a big break not having to play them in the playoffs.
Houston Rockets | 4th seed (42-26, .618)
Record against: (2-1) Of the top four seeded teams, this is likely the best match up for Portland. The Blazers have won against the Rockets both with and without Chris Paul, and effectively stopped James Hardens five-game 40-point streak holding him to 38 points with Evan Turner guarding him. They also were the only team to hold him to 30 points during his torrid scoring stretch earlier in December leading up to this game with Mo Harkless guarding him, albeit in a loss. Portland understands the key to beating the Rockets is slowing down Harden and they can do that just fine.
San Antonio Spurs | 6th seed (39-29, .574)
Record against: (1-1) This match up would be risky for the Blazers, as the Spurs have the best home record of any playoff team in the Western Conference not named the Nuggets. They could push the Blazers to seven games in a series due to their home court performance and possibly steal one game from the Blazers at home. The Blazers really need to work on their consistency down the stretch to avoid that in a series. Spurs are getting hot at the right time, winning their last 6 straight games and could poise a challenge come playoff time.
Utah Jazz | 7th seed (38-29, .567)
Record against: (2-2) The last two times these teams played the Blazers beat Utah away by five and at home by 27 in January. They lost by 19 in Utah and by 30 at home in the two match ups prior. Gobert can present a challenge for Portland’s game plan but the addition of Enes Kanter and bench play of Jake Layman could help overcome that.
Los Angeles Clippers | 8th seed (39-30, .565)
Record against: (3-0) The Clippers would be the best possible match up for the Blazers, who’ve won each game of the series convincingly against the Clippers, including one this month.