Led by NBA All-Star Damian Lillard, the Portland Trail Blazers look like they are headed to the playoffs for the fifth year in a row. The Western Conference Playoff race is exceptionally tight this year, with eight teams vying for the third through eighth seeds. At this point, it is virtually impossible to predict who will end up in which spot at the end of the season.
However, it is not too early to start weighing in on who you would like the Blazers to face in the first round. Who would be your first choice for their first round opponent?
Throw the current standings out the window. The Blazers could face any one of these teams in April. Here is the list, alphabetically, of the teams that are probably going to make it into the Western Conference Playoffs. They each register a 45% chance or better according to Five Thirty Eight:
My pick for the first round is the Oklahoma City Thunder for a few reasons:
- The Blazers played the SuperSonics 4 times in the playoffs but they haven’t faced off since they moved to OKC. Judging by the number of Sonics fans who come down to root against the Thunder during the regular season, I think it would be fun to have angry Sonics fan come down again and pack the place during the playoffs.
- Watching Steven Adams and Jusuf Nurkic battle in the paint is the secondary storyline that almost but not quite steals the show because of course the #1 reason to want to watch Portland vs OKC is . . .
- The marquee matchup between Damian Lillard (26.8 pts, 4.5 reb, 6.4 asst) and Russell Westbrook (25.4 pts, 9.6 reb, 10.1 asst) never disappoints. These two guards have gone head-to-head 18 times and Damian holds a narrow lead, winning 10 to Russ’s eight. In the last two seasons the Trail Blazers have won eight of 11. But the real fireworks are the technical fouls that Russ seems to collect when he is in town.
Here is a little historical context to help you decide. In their 48 seasons as a franchise, the Blazers have made it to the playoffs 33 times and played in a total of 52 playoff series.
- First round-- 32 times
- Conference Semifinals--11 times
- Conference Finals--six times
- NBA Finals--three times
How about you? Who do you want to see the Trail Blazers take on in round one? Make your case in the comments below.
—Tara (Team Mom) / @tcbbiggs / email@example.com