You may recall that after projecting each of the team’s remaining games last week, we had estimated that Portland would finish with a 32-50 record and remain in the #6 position.
Since then, Portland has dropped a pair of tough games against two teams fighting to either make the playoffs or solidify their seed in the Clippers and Jazz, and beaten Seattle, as expected. With one game remaining, the club cannot do “better” than fifth and cannot do “worse” than 10th, so we’ve narrowed it down a bit from the “4-11” framework defined last week. (This is a supposing that Portland does not win the lottery, of course.) The absolute worst that Portland could do is beat the Warriors in their last game, have the Knicks lose to Charlotte, Minnesota lose to Memphis, and end up in a three-way tie for the 8th – 10th spot. The best case scenario includes Portland losing to Golden State, and the Knicks, Sonics and Wolves winning, leaving Portland in a tie with Seattle for fifth.
More likely, however, is that Portland gets beaten by the Warriors – who must win to ensure a playoff spot, the franchise’s first in thirteen years — and one of the Knicks and Twolves win, coupled with a Seattle loss, leaving the Blazers in a two-way tie for sixth and seventh.
Which is fine. I’m not worried about a “sixth or seventh” scenario; what I’m concerned about is Portland ending in a massive four- or five-team tie for a spot and ending up on the losing end of that proposition.
Let’s take a closer look. Updated reverse standings, with record, remaining games and a note.
11. Philadelphia, 34-47. Remaining: @Tor. Philly made the mistake of capturing an upset win this week, assuring themselves of no better than a #9 finish. We need not concern oursevles with Philly any longer as they are so great a team, no combination of wins/losses could equal our roster with Philly’s mighty collection of talent.
10. Sacramento, 33-48 Remaining: vs LAL. I believe the Kings will lose their final game, as the Lakers are still trying to hold on to the #7 playoff seed; which means that Portland must lose to stay away from Sacramento. It’s conceivable that LA could finish 8th so they must win this game to get away from that deadly first-round Dallas matchup.
9. Charlotte, 33-48. Remaining: vs NY. This last game is a biggie in terms of final standings, and tips off at 4:00pm pst tonight. It would be best for Portland if New York won the game, so root for the Knicks.
6,7,8. New York, 32-49 Remaining: @Cha. See above. We need New York to get out of our 32-win hair, so “let’s go Knicks!” tonight. (Note: they’re 10.5 point underdogs.) That game will be over by the time Portland tips off.
6,7,8. Portland, 32-49. Remaining: vs GS. Really tough to see Portland winning this game. Golden (shower) State is gunning for the franchise’s first playoff appearance since I was a sophomore in high school to end the league’s longest playoff drought. In addition, it goes without saying that I have a wager with a fellow author of this site on whether GS would make the playoffs this year, so there’s a bit of personal skin in this game. As mentioned before, I would never “root” for Portland to lose...but I would like to see some of those bench guys get some big minutes. Fair enough.
6,7,8. Minnesota, 32-49. Remaining: @Mem. Another game to keep an eye on tonight. Go Timberwolves! This one tips off at 5:00 pst, so they’ll be done around the time we’re wrapping up the first quarter tonight.
5. Seattle, 31-50. Remaining: vs Dal. Go Sonics! If they win, it’s possible Portland could tie for fifth and gain an extra ping-pong ball or two.
In case you’re still confused, here’s a quick summary:
Tonight: Root for Seattle, New York, and Minnesota.
Best case: Portland ends up tied for the fifth/sixth worst record.
Worst case: Portland ends up tied for the eighth/ninth/tenth worst record.
Most likely scenario:
5. Seattle, 31-51
6-7. Portland & New York, 32-50
8-9. Minnesota & Sacramento, 33-49
10-11. Charlotte & Philly, 34-47
My advice to fans who feel conflicted about tonight’s Blazer game: Don’t openly root against Portland...root for the bench players to get lots of minutes. Those guys have worked hard all year, and they deserve a big game.