For awhile, it was a given: If—and that was a tentative “if,” one that precariously dangled from Brandon Roy’s mangled hamstring—Portland limped into the playoffs, it would be as an 8th seed with a dance card filled by the World Champion Los Angeles Lakers. Portland would put on their best face, say it was a moral victory given their string of injuries, and then watch as Kobe Bryant dismantled the team in four games. Okay, fine, five games.
But now with a four game cushion between their eighth seed position and a night at the draft lottery, the Blazers could actually—gasp—move up in the playoff standings. One look at Portland’s schedule shows five of their next seven games against teams with losing records, and one of their two meetings with winning teams is a matchup at home against a Toronto team they had little trouble dispatching last week (albeit, without Chris Bosh). After that, the Blazers’ schedule takes a turn for the worse—Dallas and OKC twice each, a road game against the Lakers, plus a trip to visit a healthy Chris Paul in New Orleans—meaning that if Portland wants a chance to play any team but Los Angeles in the first round of the playoffs, they need to do make their move in the next two weeks.