In a few short days, the Portland Trail Blazers are once again going to be taking the court for some meaningful games for the first time in a few months. They are going to be playing games in July and August for the first time ever probably.
Meaningful games that is.
The Blazers come into the final eight games of the season three and half back of the eighth-place and are currently the ninth-place team. Being the ninth-place teams allows a single-game playoff against the eighth-place team, with the winner taking on the Lakers in the first round of the playoffs.
Sadly, the Blazers have one of the tougher schedules for teams during this final eight-game sprint. The Blazers are probably favored in only one of those last eight games.
Though, you can’t count out Damian Lillard from any game. On top of all of that, the Blazers are going to come into the final eight as healthy as they have been in a year and a half. Zach Collins and Jusuf Nurkic will be back in the starting lineup for the Blazers and a slimmed-down Carmelo Anthony is going to be moving from Power Forward to Small Forward.
Even with Trevor Ariza opting out for the rest of the season (I don’t blame him) the Blazers are going to be one of the deeper teams coming into Orlando.
For the most part, this is the Blazers team we should have been watching play all season. A team that could go ten or eleven deep on any given night. Yes, there would have been some youth issues within the backup backcourt with Anfernee Simons and Gary Trent Jr.
The Blazers are also missing Rodney Hood, but in good news, he has started doing explosive workouts in the last couple of months and he’s feeling pretty good. He should be ready for the 2020-21 season that (hopefully) starts up in December.
That’s a few months away, let’s take a look at the Blazers schedule and if they have a chance to make the playoffs.
Game 1: July 31 vs. Memphis Grizzlies
As mentioned above the Blazers are three and half back of the youthful and fun to watch Grizzlies. Portland lost their only game against Memphis so far this year and although they’re favorites in this one, it’s only by a two-point spread. With the return of Collins and Nurkic, the Blazers have bigs to bang against both Jaren Jackson Jr. and Brandon Clarke.
If they can keep Ja Morant in check this should be a winnable game.
I’ll take the Blazers. (1-0)
Game 2: August 2 vs. Boston Celtics
The Celtics mashed the Blazers early in the season and no amount of depth was going to stop that mess. I think this game will be a little closer, but it’s going to be Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker doing work.
I’ll count this as a loss. (1-1)
Game 3: August 4 vs. Houston Rockets
The Blazers hold a 2-1 series lead over the Rockets so far this season. The wins by each team have come by double digits. James Harden and Russell Westbrook are both rested and healthy. This can cause some issues for the Blazers backcourt who isn’t exactly known for their defense. And without Ariza, they can’t switch on the wings.
In the frontcourt, the Blazers outweigh the Rockets by 700 pounds and area good eight feet taller. It could be effective to run both Nurkic and Hassan Whiteside side by side in this game and punish the little guys in the paint.
I’ll give this one to the Blazers. (2-1)
Game 4: August 6 vs. Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets and Blazers have met five times already this season (twice in the preseason) and the Blazers have yet to pick up a single win against the Nuggets this year. In fact, the Nuggets winning margin keeps getting bigger and bigger. The Nuggets are also healthy and probably the deepest team in the NBA.
Plus, Nikola Jokic is in the best shape of his life.
I’ll give this one to the Nuggets. (2-2)
Game 5: August 8 vs. Los Angeles Clippers
And the Blazers come up against arguably the second deepest team in the league. The Clippers have enjoyed two easy wins against the Blazers this year and I don’t think this one will be any different. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are just going to be too much for Portland to handle.
Clippers take this one easy. (2-3)
Game 6: August 9 vs. Philadelphia 76ers
The 76ers escaped Portland with a win early in the season, a game they played without Joel Embiid. Ben Simmons developed a three-point shot while the teams were off and he killed the Blazers the first time they met. I don’t like the Blazers’ chances in this one.
76ers pull away late. (2-4)
Game 7: August 11 vs. Dallas Mavericks
The Blazers and Mavericks have plays some high scoring games against each other this year, neither team is great on defense and they both want to push it. The Mavericks hold a 2-1 advantage over Portland so far this year and I think that the Blazers overcome Luka Doncic for the win. (3-4)
Game 8: August 13 vs. Brooklyn Nets
This is the only game that the Blazers should be heavily favored in, but it won’t matter what happens. They’ll be eliminated from the playoffs at this point unless some crazy things happen. It is 2020, so don’t take anything off the board. With no Kyrie Irving or Kevin Durant, the Nets don’t have the weapons to keep up with the Blazers.
Blazers take this one easy. (4-4)
Going 4-4 against this schedule will be an impressive feat, but it will not get Portland into the playoffs. Both the Pelicans and Kings are tied with the Blazers and have much easier roads to the eighth and ninth seeds. Memphis has also been stubborn this year. They were projected to have another top-three pick this year and have been winning games all year they should have been blown out in.
I just feel that after my birthday that I’ll be breaking down potential draft picks for the Blazers and not the playoffs.