8 Games Left: Playoff Race Update

I know Dave did a playoff race post recently, but I thought I'd still update my analysis on where the Blazers stand. In this post, I'm making use of work by John Hollinger, Justin Kubatko (who advises the Blazers now) and as well as bringing in some of my own amateur analysis.

Part 1:  How many wins will it take?

Here are the projected final standings (after averaging projections from the 3 sources above and rounding to the nearest win):

Lakers- 64 wins

Spurs- 53

Nuggets- 53

Rockets- 52

Blazers- 52

Hornets- 51

Jazz- 50

Mavericks- 49

Suns- 45

The Blazers probobly have enough wins  to make the playoffs already, but finishing 0-8 would be a bummer.

If Portland were able to get to 50 wins, that would likely place them either 6th or 7th. For homecourt advantage, the Blazers would likely need 52 wins, and it would help to get the tiebreaker over teams like Houston and New Orleans.  The game in Houston later this week is a huge one as is the Spurs game later in the road trip.  Speaking of tiebreakers, the Blazers are in a bad position.  Let's take a closer look.

Part 2: Tiebreaker Situation

Below I'll examine each of the other  7 non-Lakers Western contenders and the Blazers chances of winning a tiebreaker with that team:

* Denver.  The Blazers would need to beat Denver on the last day of the season and have the better division record.  Unfortunately, Denver is 9-3 in division games while Portland is 8-5.  Additionally, if the teams end up with the same division record, the tiebreaker will still go to Denver on conference record.  Its still possible Portland could win the tiebreaker, but Denver has the edge.  The division is very much theirs to lose.

* Utah.  To win the tiebreaker, Portland will need to  finish with the better division record (Utah has a stellar conference record).  Unfortunately, Utah is 10-4 in division games.  Portland probobly needs Utah to lose @ Denver and to Minnesota in order to win this tiebreaker (and even that might not be enough).  However, with Utah's schedule, Portland very much has the edge on the Jazz record wise, so this tiebreaker is not likely to be needed.  Indeed, Blazer fans holding out hope for the division should root for Utah against the Nuggs.

* San Antonio.  Portland leads the series 2-1, but San Antonio has by far the better conference record (that's the 2nd tiebreaker since they aren't in our division).  So Portland will need to win in San Antonio on April 8th.  Do that, and the Blazers can bring this tiebreaker very much into play.

* Dallas.  3-0 season sweep for the Mavs.  Not likely to matter.

* New Orleans.  The teams split the season series 2-2, so it will come down to conference record.  NO is 28-16 in conference, Portland is 25-19.  Not looking good, but NO will be hard pressed to make this tiebreaker relevant.

* Houston.  Series tied 1-1, 1 game remaining,  in Houston. This game could well decide homecourt in a 1st round series.  Then again, Houston still has a very legit shot to catch the Spurs and win a division title.

* Phoenix.  If this tiebreaker ends up mattering, the Blazers don't deserve to go to the playoffs.

Part 3: Schedule Analysis

Below I list Portland's remaining games and assign a rough % chance of the Blazers winning it, based on opponent, location and back-2-back situation.  These are rough, and there will be plenty of room for disagreement. 

Mar 1. San Antonio- 55%.   Portland's won this type of game at home all year.  Result- W (102-84)

Mar  4. Indiana- 90%.  Portland's been great at home vs. losing teams and will be rested.  Indy will be on a back to back.  Result- W (107-105)

Mar 5.  @ Denver- 10%.  Back to back and playing a very good team at altitude?  Recipe for disaster.  Result- L (90-106)

Mar 7.  Minnesota- 90%.  Minny will be on a back to back.  Result- W (95-93... yikes)

Mar 9. LA Lakers- 35%.  Neither team on a back to back.  Portland has been great at home vs. LA the past few years.  Result- W (111-94)

Mar 11. Dallas- 75%.  Dallas has owned us this year, but we're at home and they'll be on a back to back.  Result- L (89-93)

Mar 13. New Jersey- 80%.  No back to back for NJ but we should still win at home.  Result- W (109-100)

Mar 15. @ Atlanta- 40%.  A tough game on the road, but winnable.  Result- L (80-98)

Mar 16. @ Memphis- 75%.  Both teams on a back to back, so edge to the better team, even on the road.  Result- W (103-92)

Mar 18. @ Indiana- 50%.  We get a travel day, but this is still a tough road matchup.  Its been a while since Portland has won in Indy. Result- W (95-85)

Mar 19. @ Cleveland- 5%.  Not that we'd be likely to win anyway, but on a back-2-back, we might as well pull a Poppovich and rest all our starters. Result- L (97-92, OT)

Mar 21. @ Milwaukee- 50%.  We're the better team, but Milwaukee is dangerous.  This is a tossup game in my book.  Could be the difference between a winning trip and a losing trip.  Result- W (96-84)

Mar 23. Philadelphia- 80%.  Philly plays in Sacramento the night before, boosting our chances. Result- L (104-98, OT)

Mar 26. Phoenix- 80%.  Phoenix on a back to back (home to Utah on the 25th). Result- W (129-109)

Mar 28.  Memphis- 90%. Grizz will also be in Sac the night before. Result- W (86-66)

Mar 31. Utah- 75%.  Utah hosts NY the night before-- they've been bad in back to backs this year. Result- W (125-104)

Apr 3. @ OKC- 55%.  This game scares me, even though we should be ready after what happened last time we played there.

Apr 5. @ Houston- 25%.  Hard to be optimistic about this one.

Apr 7. @ Memphis- 75%.  We've done well against the teams we should beat this year.

Apr 8. @ SA- 10%. Impossible to be optimistic about a back-2-back in SA.  Ends a tough 4 game road trip.

Apr 10. LA Lakers- 50%.   The Lakers host Denver the night before, so I'm actually going to give us the tinyest of edges in this one.  Basically a tossup.

Apr 11. @ LA Clippers- 60%.  Tough back to back if the Clips have Davis/Zbo/Camby healthy.  If they are injury decimated again, this percentage obviously goes way up.

Apr 13. OKC- 75%.  We should handle them at home, but it might not be easy.  They have a rest day before this one.

Apr 15. Denver- 70%.  I like our chances for a home win the last day of the season.  Denver gets a travel day after hosting Sac on the 13th.

So... I have us favored in 5 games out of the final 8 with another 1 as a tossup.  However, adding up my percentages gives just 4.2 wins (I think its more likely we'll lose 1 of the games I have us favored in than win @ Houston or @ SA).  My gut tells me that we'll finish 4-4 or 5-3 (tough schedule here from here on out), which would mean a 51 or 52 win season.  Going back to my first post, with 24 games left, I had us going 14-10 or 15-9, and so far we're 11-5, so we're right on schedule or a bit ahead of where I expected we'd be.

Part 4: Summary

Portland probobly has enough wins for the playoffs already, likely needs 3 more to finish ahead of Dallas and probobly needs 4 more to finish ahead of Utah.  A 5-3 finish (especially if it includes a win in Houston) would likely be enough for homecourt advantage in the first round.

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