It's been a long time since the Blazers were division champions. A really long time. The last time the Blazers were in sole possession of the division crown in a non-lockout season was all the way back in 1992, when Clyde Drexler's squad made their last NBA Finals appearance.
The Blazers also won the Pacific Division crown outright in lockout-shortened 1999, when the Rasheed Wallace and company unexpectedly grabbed the title on their way to the Conference Finals. In 2009, the Brandon Roy's team tied the Denver Nuggets for the distinction, but ultimately fell into a subordinate (and fateful) match-up with the Houston Rockets due to tiebreaker rules that gave Denver the edge.
How rare have Division titles been for the Blazers? They still put up a banner in 2009, despite losing the tiebreak. Grab the headlines when you can.
This year's Northwest Championship told a different story. Two teams fought through injuries for a shot at a playoff run. The Oklahoma City Thunder endured bad news from the start, losing league MVP Kevin Durant as the season opened, then losing All-Star Russell Westbrook in a game against the Blazers. OKC's big hole proved insurmountable; they missed the playoffs thanks to a New Orleans Pelicans victory over San Antonio in the final game of the regular season.
But Oklahoma City wasn't the only team battling injury. Robin Lopez, Nicolas Batum and Joel Freeland all lost significant time this year. Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge played through hand injuries. Wesley Matthews was lost in March, leaving little time for the Blazers to adjust.
Rewind the season, grant both teams perfect health, and Portland may have still come out on top.
The Blazers won the Northwest Division in a game against the woeful Los Angeles Lakers. Without Matthews, the team depended on CJ McCollum, who showed signs of things to come with 27 points in the victory. Despite falling behind by 25, the Lakers fought hard for three quarters. Then the Blazers shrugged and closed them out, winning by 30 over their fallen rival, and enjoying the fruits of victory.
That night CJ McCollum and Coach Terry Stotts showed off the Northwest Division swag:
We the Northwest. pic.twitter.com/jT4hlAywsY
— Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) April 4, 2015
Coach Stotts on Blazer One. Headed home. pic.twitter.com/nSi548UlZ8
— Mike Barrett (@blazermb) April 4, 2015
Well deserved it was.