Well, are the Portland Trail Blazers a playoff team? Good question, glad I asked. Let’s break out our inner mathlete and crunch some numbers:
Current Portland record: 31-24
Current playoff ranking: 8th seed
Games remaining: 27
At home: 12
Winning percentage of visiting opponents: .477
On the road: 15
Winning percentage of home opponents: .470 (the Nets’ .077 winning percentage really skews this number)
Using the Basketball Reference Playoff Probabilities Report the Blazers have a respectable 83.5% of making it to the postseason, and a hilariously depressing 0.9% chance of winning the Larry O’Brien NBA Championship Trophy. ESPN’s John Hollinger and his Statbot 2000™ predict that Portland has a 78.4% chance of extending their season, yet they are far more generous when it comes to the Blazers winning the NBA championship: 1%. (Gas up the jet, we’re going to Vegas and we’re putting the entire PRS budget on those 1% odds.)
While these numbers mean less to a team that has had nothing go according to script during this season, they do illustrate how the once-packed Western Conference has loosened up some. Both Houston and Memphis need a serious second half turnaround to threaten Portland (or San Antonio, who Hollinger ranks lower in the playoff shuffle than Portland).
Over the remaining games the Blazers need to play slightly better than .500 ball (a 14-13 record) to all-but-secure a postseason birth. If 45 wins in the bare minimum, is it enough? Well, it wouldn’t have been last year. The Phoenix Suns won 46 games last season and they were golfing by mid-April. The magic number of 45 is contingent on teams like Houston and Memphis continuing their downward slide. If either teams heats back up, or makes a big move before the trade deadline, 45 wins might not be enough. Plus, there are better goals for Portland to just arrive in the playoffs and be forced to play the Lakers (bad), or Denver (worse), without home court advantage.
But considering how stressful this season has been on the Blazers faithful (I used to be handsome, but by the end of this year I’m going to look the either Van Gundy brother), just knowing that the playoffs are within their reach is reassuring.