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10-Game Forecast: Chilly Blazers Thrown into the Fire

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Things haven’t been pretty for Portland the last two weeks. Don’t expect it to get any easier.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Dallas Mavericks Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Portland Trail Blazers’ fall from No. 1 to No. 7 in the NBA’s Western Conference has taken the shine off of a hot start to the season. The West is embroiled in a 14-team race (sorry, Phoenix) for eight playoff seeds right now. As the Blazers have discovered, any one game can vault a team several spots up or down the standings.

Portland has gone just 2-6 in their last eight games. They still hold one of those coveted playoff spots, but their upcoming 10-game forecast includes a heavy dose of talented teams. This stretch will either be the test this team needs to shake out of its malaise, or a steaming pile onto the bad funk.

Over the next 10, the Blazers will face only Western Conference teams (the Toronto Raptors providing the lone execption) in games that will likely matter for tiebreakers come playoff time. Here’s what lies ahead.

Dec. 8 vs. Minnesota Timberwolves

Current record: 13-12
Season series with Portland: Tied 1-1 (best of four)
Conference standing: 10th
Key player: Karl-Anthony Towns (21.3 points/12 rebounds/49.1 FG%)
Key storyline: Minnesota is 9-3 after trading Jimmy Butler on Nov. 10 to the Philadelphia 76ers. The move helped add depth by acquiring Robert Covington and Dario Saric (and the injured Jerryd Bayless).

Dec. 11 at Houston Rockets

Current record: 11-13
Season series with Portland: 1-0 Portland leads (best of three)
Conference standing: 13th
Key player: James Harden (30.6 points/8.7 assists/10 FT attempts)
Key storyline: Houston started out the season on a bumpy note, and that was compounded by injuries to both Harden and Chris Paul (and the whole Carmelo Anthony thing). They look better with Paul in the lineup (11-8 record), but they’re still finding their footing as they deal with departures from last year’s WCF team. They’re still a threat to pop off any night.

Dec. 12 at Memphis Grizzlies

Current record: 14-9
Season series with Portland: 0-0 (best of four)
Conference standing: 6th
Key player: Mike Conley (21.1 points/6.5 assists/3.5 rebounds)
Key storyline: Conley has rebounded extremely well from a heel and Achilles injury that caused him to miss the final 70 games of last season. Memphis as a whole is over-performing expectations, thanks in part to Conley’s comeback, and they just added Joakim Noah for a spark off the bench.

Dec. 14 vs. Toronto Raptors

Current record: 21-5
Conference standing: 1st
Key player: Kawhi Leonard (26.1 points/8.6 rebounds/49.1 FG%)
Key storyline: The trade for Kawhi has made Toronto favorites to come out of the East. It was a risk, breaking up a backcourt that liked each other but only had so high of a ceiling, and it’s paid off — an example of taking a chance on a homerun move to push the team to another gear.

Dec. 17 at Los Angeles Clippers

Current record: 16-8
Season series with Portland: Tied 1-1 (best of four)
Conference standing: 3rd
Key player: Tobias Harris (21 points/8.5 rebounds/41.6 3PT%)
Key storyline: L.A. is just like Memphis in terms of team success, exceeding expectations with a cohesive unit. Harris has taken the next step towards stardom, but Danilo Gallinari is enjoying a comeback season from injuries and Montrezl Harrell has provided much-needed energy from the bench. They’re just a feel-good story.

Dec. 19 vs. Grizzlies

Current record: 14-9
Season series with Portland: 0-0 (best of four)
Conference standing: 6th
Key player: Mike Conley (21.1 points/6.5 assists/3.5 rebounds)
Key storyline: Conley has rebounded extremely well from a heel and Achilles injury that caused him to miss the final 70 games of last season. Memphis as a whole is over-performing expectations, thanks in part to Conley’s comeback, and they just added Joakim Noah for a spark off the bench.

Dec. 21 vs. Utah Jazz

Current record: 13-13
Season series with Portland: 0-0 (best of four)
Conference standing: t-12th
Key player: Donovan Mitchell (21.3 points/3.6 assists/1.7 steals)
Key storyline: Mitchell has missed four games this season due to a variety of ailments (hamstring, ankle, ribs). Utah is just 1-3 in those games, losing by an average of 18.5 points. They also recently added Kyle Korver to bolster their 3-point shooting.

Dec. 23 vs. Dallas Mavericks

Current record: 12-11
Season series with Portland: 1-0 Dallas leads (best of four)
Conference standing: 8th
Key player: Luka Doncic (18.1 points/6.5 rebounds/4.3 assists)
Key storyline: Doncic is a rookie sensation who’s transformed the energy in Dallas. Seen as a rebuilding team, the Mavs are in current playoff contention early on. Doncic’s youth blends nicely with a team built on veteran play.

Dec. 25 at Jazz (Christmas Day game!)

Current record: 13-13
Season series with Portland: 0-0 (best of four)
Conference standing: t-12th
Key player: Donovan Mitchell (21.3 points/3.6 assists/1.7 steals)
Key storyline: Mitchell has missed four games this season due to a variety of ailments (hamstring, ankle, ribs). Utah is just 1-3 in those games, losing by an average of 18.5 points. They also recently added Kyle Korver to bolster their 3-point shooting.

Dec. 27 at Golden State Warriors

Current record: 17-9
Season series with Portland: 1-0 Golden State leads (best of four)
Conference standing: 4th
Key player: Kevin Durant (29.8 points/7.8 rebounds/6.3 assists)
Key storyline: Durant and Draymond Green got into much-publicized beef in November, but with Steph Curry back from injury things are much smoother. Curry has appeared in only 15 games so far, with the team going an astounding 12-3 with him in the lineup. And speaking of injuries, DeMarcus Cousins is reportedly taking part in shootaround with an eye towards hitting the court soon after his Achilles injury last season.


Will this stretch of tough games push Portland to get back on track? What would you consider a “good” record over the next 10 games? Let us know in the comments.