The Dallas Mavericks shocked everyone, falling to the San Antonio Spurs' bench squad to finish the season 42-40 and hand the Western Conference fifth seed to the Portland Trail Blazers. Tonight's game between Portland and the Denver Nuggets can no longer affect seeding. The Blazers will now prepare to play a series against the fourth-seed Los Angeles Clippers, which will begin over the weekend in LA.
The Blazers and Clippers played a number of close games this season, and had one fairly infamous incident along the way.
Ten days later, the Clippers returned the favor, beating Portland 102-87. In a late-game tactical move, Terry Stotts instructed the Blazers to start fouling DeAndre Jordan, but the deficit was just too big. Lillard struggled through the game while reportedly battling the flu.
On January 6th, Los Angeles beat Portland 109-98. This is the infamous Clerical Error Game, where the Blazers inadvertently chose to activate Luis Montero instead of CJ McCollum. There were varying reports about whether the Clippers could have allowed an override of that decision, but one did not happen, and Doc Rivers (still unhappy about Stotts fouling Jordan in the previous game) shared a smirk and a glance at McCollum after the game.
On March 24th, JJ Redick hit a buzzer-beating jumper to pull Los Angeles to a 96-94 victory over Portland. The Blazers, who battled hard all night, clearly saw this as the game-that-got-away afterward. In a common theme with Clipper games, the referees were a subject of some consternation afterward.
The Blazers will come into this series as heavy underdogs, but most analysts feel they have the best chances of an upset in the West.