The Portland Trail Blazers rode a 13-game win streak to the Western Conference’s No. 3 seed, and now they’re in the driver’s seat to stay there. Although the streak was followed by two losses in a row, Portland bounced back against the Oklahoma City Thunder and New Orleans Pelicans, two teams chasing Portland for the No. 3 seed.
The Blazers currently hold a 2.5-game lead over OKC for the No. 3 seed, and Jeremias Engelmann of ESPN sees the Blazers finishing the season right where they are (from Mar. 26):
Portland Trail Blazers | Wins: 49.8 | Seed: No. 3 (69.6 percent)
Most likely playoff opponent: Jazz
Thanks to a hard-fought victory at the Thunder on Sunday, the Blazers are now more than 85 percent likely to have home court in the first round and 70 percent likely to have the No. 3 seed. The biggest competitor for that No. 3 seed are the Spurs, whom the Blazers play April 7 in San Antonio.
Interestingly, Portland’s last game of the season is against the Utah Jazz, currently their most likely first-round opponent; the Blazers could potentially throw that game by resting starters to influence who they have to play. The next five teams listed have a chance of 10 percent or better of finishing in each of spots Nos. 4-8.
Also, because Portland is relatively firm here while the rest of the field is so bunched up, the Blazers show up as the most likely matchup for several teams.
Engelmann’s predictions use real plus-minus power ratings for teams that adjust for injuries.
The predictions place Portland at 49.8 wins, and Peter Sampson here at Blazer’s Edge recently made the case for Portland hitting at least 50 wins to close out the season. Favorable matchups still left include the lowly Memphis Grizzlies (twice) and Dallas Mavericks.