Blazers Clinch No. 6 Seed in 2021 NBA Playoffs; Will Face Nuggets in 1st Round

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistMay 17, 2021

Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard, left, speaks with guard CJ McCollum, right, during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Portland, Ore., Saturday, Dec. 26, 2020. The Blazers won 128-126 in overtime. (AP Photo/Steve Dykes)
Steve Dykes/Associated Press

The Portland Trail Blazers are going to the postseason and avoided the Western Conference play-in tournament in the process.

Portland clinched its spot in the playoffs Sunday when they defeated the Denver Nuggets.

Here is a look at where the Trail Blazers stack up in the Western Conference playoff and play-in seeds:

1. Utah Jazz

2. Phoenix Suns

3. Denver Nuggets

4. Los Angeles Clippers

5. Dallas Mavericks

6. Portland Trail Blazers

7. Los Angeles Lakers

8. Golden State Warriors

9. Memphis Grizzlies

10. San Antonio Spurs

Making the playoffs is nothing new for the Trail Blazers. This marks their eighth straight trip to the postseason, which, not so coincidentally, overlaps with Damian Lillard's nine years leading the franchise since Portland selected him with the No. 6 pick in the 2012 NBA draft.

The six-time All-Star and five-time All-NBA selection has been largely brilliant again this season and entered play Sunday averaging 28.9 points, 7.5 assists and 4.2 rebounds per game behind 45 percent shooting from the field and 38.8 percent shooting from deep.

He carried the team for extended stretches, especially when CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic were sidelined by injuries.

Fortunately for the Trail Blazers, McCollum and Nurkic are both back and have helped the team play some of its best basketball of the season as the playoffs approach.

Portland fell to 32-28 with a loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on April 25. It marked its fifth consecutive loss at the time and dropped its record to 3-10 in a 13-game stretch. The playoffs were not a lock at the time, but they are now after Lillard and Co. flipped the switch while going 10-2 since that loss to the Grizzlies.

After the trade for Norman Powell and the return of McCollum and Nurkic, the Trail Blazers have plenty of dangerous options around Lillard.

And the point guard can take over during "Dame Time" down the stretch of any close game.

That makes them a daunting threat to any team in the Western Conference, especially since they were able to avoid the play-in tournament and can focus on their first-round opponent. They kept the defending champion Lakers at bay and earned the ever-important tiebreaker to help stay out of the pressure-packed Nos. 7-10 spots.

With Lillard leading the way, it wouldn't be a surprise if the Trail Blazers played spoiler to some of the top seeds and made a deep run in the Western Conference playoffs.