What a difference a few weeks make - we went from first/second place in the conference to 5th place within a relative blink of the eye. As this happened, I started seeing a considerable amount of posts about jockeying for the right position in the standings so we can play/avoid a specific opponent. While no one would deny the benefit of home court advantage, I personally find our recent (or, to some, distant) play-off appearance to contradict such positioning. Have Blazer fans forgotten how delighted we were to play Phoenix in 2010 and Dallas in 2011 (and to a lesser extent Houston in 2009?) In 2011, Dallas was our dream match up in the first round because we always played them tough and they were accused of playing soft. We split the season that year but Portland played them really well the last two games and won. A lot of good that did us as Houston, Phoenix, and Dallas went pretty far into the playoffs.
I wonder what would have happened had we finished one seed lower and had a different opponent?
In 2009, we played Houston as the 4th and 5th seeds. Dallas finished as the 6th seed and played 3rd seed San Antonio - Dallas won that match up 4-1
In 2010, we played Phoenix as the 7th seed. Oklahoma was the 8th seed and played the Lakers as the 1st seed - the Lakers won it all next year, but Phoenix played them awfully tough in the conference finals.
In 2011, we were seeded 6th and played 3rd seeded Dallas. That year, 8th seeded Memphis knocked off 1st seed San Antonio 4-2. Dallas went on to win it all.
So, as the second half of the season unwinds and we see more tough losses (OKC, LAC, and Indiana), I take consolation is the fact that, at least this year, we are still in the thick of the Western Conference playoffs and that we have the players and confidence to compete with anyone in the conference in the first round.