Wake Up, Portland Blazer Fans: Phoenix Doesn't Matter

Drew BartonAnalyst IMarch 30, 2009

DALLAS - FEBRUARY 04:  LaMarcus Aldridge #12 of the Portland Trail Blazers takes a shot against Brandon Bass #32 of the Dallas Mavericks on February 4, 2009 at American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

The other night during the Blazers' matter-of-fact destruction of the hapless Memphis Grizzlies, a score flashed up on the scoreboard showing the final score in the Jazz-Suns game.

Utah had won a close game in overtime, and...the Portland fans went nuts?

That sure was an unnecessary reaction.


I'll admit that the Suns are many things.
Under Alvin Gentry, they have returned to being one of the most entertaining teams in basketball. Their games generally include several exciting plays, numerous emotional peaks and valleys, runs by both teams, high scoring, and a few spectacular defensive plays as their frenetic style leads to some very entertaining shot-blocking.
But one thing the Suns were not, are not, and will not be is a threat to the Blazers' Playoff position.
Sure, the Blazers' "magic number" deals with how many Portland wins or Phoenix losses it will take to guarantee the Blazers a postseason bid. From that standpoint, watching Phoenix lose could be considered a good thing. But it's not something to go crazy about.

Now, the Jazz are a different case entirely. Deron Williams is very entertaining to watch. They put up a lot of points, score inside and out, and have some solid defenders.
And they're just a half-game behind the Blazers in the race for Playoff seeds.

With nine games left on Portland's schedule, it might be tough to run down Denver or Houston, the two teams that are a game and a half ahead. But catching either would get Portland home-court advantage in the first round, something they desperately need in order to advance to the second round. 
Of the two, Houston is the more likely to be overtaken. Denver has the easiest schedule of any of the teams fighting for the two- through seven-seeds and has shown all year that they are a worthy team.
Of course, Houston has shown they can play without Tracy McGrady, and they remain the odds-on favorite to retain the fourth playoff seed.

Assuming Portland stays in the fourth or fifth playoff slot, their likely opponent will be either the Nuggets or Rockets. They've struggled against both teams, but it is the Nuggets who seem to have the greater dominance over the Blazers.
Thus, it would behoove Portland to stay in the fifth position so as to obtain the more favorable matchup.
In order to do that, they must stay ahead of two very talented teams: the Jazz and Hornets.

So think about it: Whenever Phoenix plays the Jazz or Hornets, the result in the best interest of the Blazers is clearly a Phoenix win.
Blazer fans need to wake up and realize their team is not only good enough to make the Playoffs, but good enough to put a good scare into any of the teams they might face. A first round win is not out of the question.
And it would not be an upset on the level of the Mavericks-Warriors series a couple years ago. It would be minor, at most; that's the caliber of this squad.
But to enhance the likelihood of advancing, they need to worry about improving their seeding, not about merely making the postseason.
The goal should not be just making the Playoffs; it should be winning some games in late April and May.

With that in mind, one thing is clear. As far as Blazers fans are concerned, the Suns don't matter. What we want is the Jazz and Hornets to lose games...and if possible, the Rockets and Nuggets to go down as well.
Is it likely Portland will get ahead of either team in the standings, get home-court, and win a series? Nope.
But it is certainly more likely than the Suns coming back and knocking the Blazers out. 
Instead of worrying about teams 6.5 games behind them, Portland fans need to wake up and realize the real goal: finding a way to steal home-court advantage for the first round from Houston or Denver.