As of now, the Blazers sit in the fifth spot in the Western Conference. And although they share the same record of 50-28 with the Houston Rockets, Houston owns the season series.
Portland's remaining four games will consist of three home games (Lakers, Thunder, and Nuggets) and a road game against the Clippers. Looking at the Rockets last four, they'll get the lowly Kings, Warriors, and the playoff-bound Mavs on the road, and the Hornets at home.
If I had to guess, I'd give Houston a bit of an edge to earn the fourth seed. Behind the Blazers are the Hornets, who will need to pretty much win out to take the fourth or fifth slot in the West.
Throughout the season, the Blazers have beat the tough teams, and they've won the close games. Last year, this team shocked a lot of people, and they did some more of the same this year.
Some skeptics thought that Portland could finish on the outside looking in yet again in '09, or maybe sneak in with the eighth seed. But this Blazers team had an impressive year, and grew immensely.
On a recent trip to Portland, I saw the Blazers tear the Utah Jazz apart. This was an indication to me that the Blazers are ready to be a playoff team that could potentially be a threat to a team like the Lakers.
Sure, one might say that the Blazers inexperience could be a problem down the stretch. I don't see this being a big factor. Although Brandon Roy has never played in the postseason at the pro level, he's had nights where he has shut down some players and teams that are there all the time.
The potential matchup of Portland versus Houston could be an interesting one. Back on Nov. 6, Roy hit a game-winner in OT to put the Rockets away. LaMarcus Aldridge tacked on 27 points and nine boards that night, while Tracy McGrady led the game with 30 points.
The Feb. 24 matchup saw a different outcome, when Houston got the 98-94 win at home. Roy and Aldridge each had 20-plus, while Aaron Brooks and Ron Artest did the same for the Rockets. Then on April 5, the Rockets got a lopsided victory 102-88.
Of course, the Rockets will be McGrady-less for the remainder of the year. His absence has been felt without a doubt, but this team is used to being short-handed.
It seems like either Yao Ming or T-Mac get hurt every year, and somehow the Rockets find a way to get in.
If it were a battle of pure experience, taking Houston would be a smart pick. And it's really possible that Ming's presence in the paint could be too much for Greg Oden and Joel Przybilla.
Through watching Oden all year, I've seen that he's been having trouble posting bigger centers up, and his defense definitely needs work. This is why I think that turning to Przybilla for big minutes in the Rockets' series could be valuable.
While this matchup isn't set in stone yet, it looks pretty likely. I feel this series would be awfully close, similar to the way the West has shaken down this year.
Regardless of the outcome, the Blazers have exceeded expectations this season and raised some eyebrows.
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