Updated: Apr 13, 2019
RIP CITY!!! (Damian Lillard voice)
First off, congratulations to the Portland Trail Blazers. After defeating the Los Angeles Lakers 104-101, they have locked up home court advantage and assured themselves to finish in the top four of the Western Conference for the second year in a row. The West is always a tight race with teams only being separated in the standings by a few games in the win and loss column. As you may know, if you lose just two games you can slide in the standings significantly.
Last year, the Blazers climbed up in the standings thanks to a 13 game winning streak, tying their second-longest win streak in franchise history. This year it’s been much more of a consistent effort that’s helped the Trail Blazers remain at the top of the Western Conference Standings.
While facing some significant injuries to two of their starters late this season, credit Neil Olshey for acquiring players that could help this team remain at the top of the standings.
Now we can’t quite turn our full attention to the playoffs just yet. Yes, the Trail Blazers have locked up home court in the first round, but there is still work to be done. The Trail Blazers will play the Sacramento Kings tonight with a chance to move into third place in the West on the last night of the regular season. They will need a little help from the Denver Nuggets in order for this to happen who tip-off just before the Blazers at 7pm. If the Nuggets defeat the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Blazers defeat the Kings, the three seed is theirs. If Denver loses, Houston will move into second place, Denver will be third and the Blazers will stay at fourth.
As far as opponents go, the Utah Jazz have locked themselves into fifth in the West by defeating the Nuggets last night 118-108. This means if the Blazers stay at four, they will play the Jazz. However, if the Blazers end up moving into the three spot, they can either face the Oklahoma City Thunder or the San Antonio Spurs. Both the Spurs and the Thunder tip-off tonight at 5pm, meaning when the Blazers tip-off at 7:30pm, we should have an idea of who will be locked in at that sixth spot in the standings.
It's been reported by Trail Blazers beat reporter Casey Holdahl that both Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum will not play tonight against the Kings due to "load management" but, as we’ve seen this season that doesn’t mean they won’t have a chance to win this game. It will be interesting to see how things play out, but one thing is for certain, these Trail Blazers never quit.
It has been a challenging year for them for many reasons. For starters, losing their owner Paul Allen prior to the start of the year. Then, losing 7-13 games after making their way to the top of the standings earlier in the year. Just as the Blazers seemed to be hitting another gear, especially after acquiring the likes of Rodney Hood and Enes Kanter, they lost CJ McCollum to a scary knee injury which caused him to miss 10 games. They thought they had dodged a bullet from the injury bug, until 4 games later they lost starting Center Jusuf Nurkic to a horrific broken leg.
The Blazers have won 18 of 24 games since the All-Star break, which includes winning seven of nine since losing Nurkic. They have maintained the number one offensive rating since the All-Star break and the 12th ranked defense, giving them a net rating good for fourth in the league per Kirk Goldsberry of ESPN.
With just one regular season game to go for your Portland Trail Blazers, fans can let out a sigh of relief. We know there will be playoff basketball in Rip City. Who they will play and what seed they will finish this season is still to be determined. But we can all agree it's been one hell of a ride. The Blazers will look to rewrite the narrative on this team with some playoff success this season. It is still yet to be seen if this team is anything like the team we saw last year. But all of these questions will begin to be answered this weekend when playoff basketball gets underway.