The Portland Trail Blazers, standing at 43-26, are third in the Western Conference with 13 games remaining. They’re also on a 12-game winning streak, which has propelled them up the standings and put a sliver of distance between them and the other seven teams fighting for seeds 3-8.
Still, despite the tension between playoff spot contenders, Rohan Nadkarni of Sports Illustrated warns Blazers fans to not make any non-basketball plans once the playoffs hit (from Mar. 13):
The Blazers are the hottest team west of the Mississippi, south of the border or any other geographical landmark that suits your fancy. Portland is on a league-leading 10-game winning streak, which includes two victories over the Warriors. PDX has found most of its success on the defensive end so far this season, and its Dame-C.J.-Aminu-Evan Turner-Nurkic lineup is suffocating opponents.
The Blazers are in a very comfortable spot, but holding on to the three seed won’t be easy. Portland will play 11 playoff teams in its final 15 games of the season. The Blazers have to play Rockets and Clippers twice, as well as the Spurs, Celtics, Cavs, Thunder, Jazz, Pelicans and Nuggets, all of whom will bring a solid level of motivation. Fortunately, matchups with the Pistons, Grizzlies (2x), and Mavericks should be gimmes.
Confidence level: Don’t agree to any plans your friends try to make after April 11—Portland’s going to be in the playoffs.
Making the playoffs might seem like a given, but Portland’s seeding is very much up in the air. The Oklahoma City Thunder are only 1.5 games back of the Blazers (Portland’s 26 losses versus their 29 losses is what’s separating them — they both have 43 wins) for the No. 3 seed.
There’s also currently a 3-way tie for the No. 5 seed between the Utah Jazz, San Antonio Spurs and Minnesota Timberwolves, all of whom are 40-30.