Looking ahead at the Blazers' schedule, they have a lot of tough games ahead of them. However, despite being 3 games under .500, they are still within reasonable striking distance of the playoffs with 21 games left on the schedule. Here I'll take a look at each game left in the Blazers' schedule, rating it for how winnable it is (are the Blazers underdogs or favorites?), and at the end we'll see how many and which teams the Blazers have to beat to sneak in at the 8th seed. I'm going to be conservative here because I don't want to understate the difficulty of this schedule.
@New Orleans Hornelicans - Favorites. While the Blazers did get shamefully run out of the building last time these two teams faced, I don't expect a rerun of that particular movie, outside of the film room. After watching themselves get humiliated on every play, surely the Blazers will come out motivated. Right?
Memphis Grizzly Bears - Slight underdogs. I know Wednesday's game was in Portland's control the whole time, but Z-Bo will probably be back for this game and he has the ability to tear up anyone's interior defense, let alone ours. If Randolph isn't back in action yet this is an even match or even tips towards the home team.
New York Knickerbockers - Slight underdogs. Again, this might tip on health issues, but I'm gonna be conservative here and assume the Knicks are at 85% health or better. Apostrophe Stoudamire has been in top form in the post this year, and Carmelo has been posting up more than he historically has. Hickson couldn't stop either of those two, let alone Tyson Chandler. However, Lillard can torch Jason Kidd every five seconds, as we saw in a nice Blazers win in NYC, so if anyone important is out for the Knicks I expect a Blazers win.
Detroit Pistons - Favorites. The Blazers somehow lost the first matchup of the year by letting Brandon Knight, of all people, go off on them, but I don't see that happening again. Portland controls its turnovers, Lillard scores 20, Aldridge goes for 30/10, and the Pistons have no chance, even with Greg Monroe scoring 34 points.
@Philadelphia Sixty-Sixers - Slight favorites. The Sixers really have been about 10 points short every game lately, and they're in complete freefall mode while waiting for Andrew Bynum to stop bowling and come back from injury next Septembruary. Jrue Holiday could always make a fool of Lillard's defense, though, and torch the Blazers. Otherwise Portland just wins by outscoring Philly.
@Milwaukee Deer - Slight underdogs. I would call this even, except the Deer picked up Blazer Killer J. J. Redick who will score at least 20 points and make Wesley Matthews look foolish at least six times. Maybe it's because he's white but Wes forgets how quick Redick is every single play it seems like. I assume they got Redick for this sole purpose and fulfill his purpose I know he will. Still winnable for the away team, though.
@Chicago Horned Bovine - Slight underdogs. The Bulls have still been winning despite lacking Derrick Rose all year, mostly because of amazing Thibodeau® style defense and Joakim Noah's continued awesomeness. The Bulls don't allow 3s or 2s, so unless the Blazers get real hot or can get to the line a lot, they're not going to score much. On the other hand, most nights The Bulls' offense looks just as ugly as JoNo's signature tornado jump shot. Could the Blazers win a game with their defense? Not likely, if they win it's going to be with the guards draining their 3s and Hickson getting 9001 putbacks. The Blazers won this one at home so they know it's possible.
@Atlanta Hawks - Slight underdogs. Despite some roster shuffles, the Hawks are their usual lower-half-of-the-bracket selves this year. Which is slightly better than where the Blazers are at. The Hawks can simultaneously shut your offense down and torch you on the other end. On the other hand, they have a lot of chuckers (here's looking at you, Smith), turn it over a ton, and never get offensive rebounds. If the Blazers can score a lot on runouts they might be able to run away with this one. On the other hand Korver will probably be left open 9 times and make 8 threes. I'm leaning towards the latter right now.
@Oklahoma City SuperSonics - Major underdogs. The Blazers have absolutely no way of stopping Westbrook or Durant, although somehow Durant shoots himself out of a lot of Blazers games. If Portland can make this a shootout they have a chance, but that's probably their only chance here. If the Blazers do sneak into the playoffs this is not the team they want to see.
Brooklyn $uper$stars - Slight underdogs. Home court advantage will not stop Brook Lopez from grabbing all the rebounds and scoring 30 points. Neither will the Blazers. On the other hand, Brooklyn's biggest weakness might be giving up 3-pointers, which the Blazers will surely try to exploit as they always do. Deron Williams and Joe Johnson are both having relative down years, but either or both can burn the Blazers' lackluster defense. This is another game that the Blazers will only win if they outshoot the opposition. (Does this sound familiar yet?)
Utah Alt-Rock - Even. Seriously, though, I live in Utah and I can't usually find good live jazz to save my life. (I miss Portland.) This is a very important game for the Blazers since they have to pass the Jazz. The Blazers split their home-away back to back earlier this year with the Jazz. Utah is average at just about everything (seriously). I went to the Blazers game in SLC and boy was that ugly. The offense was so bad the Wizards would have been embarrassed. The Blazers are more likely to win if they can avoid that type of game.
@Golden State Warriors - Slight underdogs. Damian Lillard went nuts in the first meeting of these teams and almost pulled out the win by himself, but the Blazers couldn't stop the Warriors bigs. David Lee is always going to score on the Blazers, so they must contain the other bigs and stop Steph Curry from making 11 three pointers, as well as overcoming their long-standing tradition of losing badly when in the Bay Area. The Warriors have cooled off a ton since their hot start, especially defensively. This is another very important win.
@Utah - Slight underdogs. If we say this is an even match for Portland at home then it follows that they would be a little worse off on the road. If they can take both from Utah that would improve their chances of passing them in the standings a lot.
Memphis - Slight underdogs. If anything this tilts even more in the Grizzlies' favor than the previous one because Zach will probably be in better health and the Blazers will be more tired. This is the first in a homestand of 5 games against teams with about the same record as Portland or better. Taking this one would be an excellent start.
Houston Astronauts - Even. Who guards Jeremy Lin? James Harden? If you put Wes and Nic on those two then who does the PG guard? Someone from Houston is going to go off. Heck, Omer Asik might be able to record a career high knowing the Blazers defense. Once again this is an absolute shootout. The Blazers have shown they can run with the fast-paced Rockets offense before, and they'll look to do it again here.
Dallas Mavericks - Slight favorites. LaMarcus Aldridge's favorite team to beat up on, even when they're not in Dallas. Despite the Mavs' playoff beards, they aren't anywhere near making the playoffs. They are still a threat to the Blazers; O.J. Mayo is having a great season and Dirk can still score. Their downfall is their defense; they're 25th in the league in 3PM defense and 20th in 3P% defense. Unless all the Blazers go cold they should take this one.
Los Angeles Fakers - Even. Dwight Howard should theoretically tear the Blazers apart, but he hasn't really taken over the games between these two teams so far. On top of that, the Lakers perimeter defense is atrocious - Nash was never a good defender when he was in his 20s and Kobe is getting old as well. The Blazers are 1-2 in this series this season and will look to even the record here.
OKC - Underdogs. Even with home court advantage the Blazers can't keep up with these guys. This game will probably show how far the Blazers are from contending at all.
@Denver Nuggets - Underdogs. The Nuggets have been making a killing at home all season and there's no reason to expect they will give the Blazers another record breakingly bad outside shooting night. If they are smart and listen to Coach Karl, they'll just pound it inside and get to 100 points in the paint for a final score of 133-119. This isn't an unwinnable game, but it's one of the least winnable on the docket.
@Los Angeles Sailboats - Underdogs. Chris Paul can beat any opposing point guard, and Lillard doesn't have the chops to contain him, let alone stop him. Unless the Blazers can hide Lillard on someone else, the Clips should oop their way to a win. Plus Blake Griffin loves open laves to drive and slam. He'll get plenty of those here.
Golden State - Heavy favorites. This is Blazers Edge Kids night after all so how could the Blazers possibly lose this one?
So now let's look at how many the Blazers would have to win to make the Playoffs. Basketball-Reference has the Lakers getting in with an average of 42.4 wins, so let's set the bar at 43 for now. Sportsclubstats.com also says the Blazers need 43 wins to have above 50% chance of making the playoffs. This means the Blazers would have to finish 14-7.
Now let's count how many of each type of game I forcasted for the Blazers:
- Heavy Favorites: 1
- Favorites: 2
- Slight Favorites: 2
- Even: 3
- Slight Underdogs: 9
- Underdogs: 3
- Major Underdogs: 1
An 1-8 matchup between the Spurs and Blazers would be incredibly fun to watch. But it's a long-shot. If the Blazers can win the next six games in a row (all winnable) then I think we can come back to this more seriously. For now all we can do is hope and cheer!