The ink has barely dried on the Trail Blazers’ 2018-19 regular season schedule. Portland’s slate of games will feature notable homecomings for former players, LeBron James’ Laker debut, and 12 back-to-back games. With those milestones in mind, Blazer’s Edge contributors Isaiah De los Santos and Steve Dewald exchanged questions about the year ahead.
What part of the schedule do you feel gives the Blazers the best chance to capture an extended winning streak?
Steve: Portland catapulted themselves into the No. 3 spot in the Western Conference with a late-season 13-game winning streak. I’m guessing their penchant for last-second heroics continues into this year. Starting on March 20, the Blazers start a stretch of six games against teams that failed to make the postseason in 2017-18. Three games will be in the Moda Center, and the six-pack only features one back-to-back.
Steve’s Proposed Winning Streak
Isaiah: I’m betting on a January turnaround just like last season. Denver is the only team that looks like a threat to disrupt an easier stretch of games starting Jan. 7. The Knicks, Bulls and Kings are teams that will likely chase draft ping pong balls, not a playoff seed. Ditto for the Hornets if they restart and trade Kemba Walker, and ditto for the Cavs if their current playoffs-or-bust mindset without LeBron James doesn’t go as planned midway through the season.
Isaiah’s Proposed Winning Streak
On the flip side, what part of the schedule could become a potential rough stretch for Portland?
Isaiah: Nov. 1-11 sticks out a lot. The Blazers tend to drag their feet in the beginning of the season, and these games all feel like the kind of toss-ups they’d not show up for. Portland has about half of October to get their feet under them, but I’m concerned about a slow start that they can never recover from in a stronger, healthier West. This stretch also leads into seven (!!) games on the road against several of these teams — not ideal for a slow-starting team.
Isaiah’s Proposed Losing Streak
Steve: Yikes. I’m a little scared that I agree here. I actually start this potential downturn two games prior to the set that Isaiah mentioned. Before facing the Pelicans, the Blazers will play a road back-to-back starting with the Pacers and ending with the Rockets.
Isaiah: You’re agreeing with me, Steve? As a wise person once said, “Move on, find a new slant.”
Steve: Jeez. Gloves off in our first collaboration.
At first glance, which game are you looking forward to the most?
Steve: The obvious choice is the Blazers’ return to the NBA’s Christmas Day slate of games, but I can’t resist picking LeBron James’ debut with the Lakers. The national broadcast will feature plenty of nauseating praise for Los Angeles, and the Moda Center will be packed with purple and gold. It’s a perfect night for Portland to spoil things for the Lakers.
Isaiah: Christmas Day against the Utah Jazz. Not only for the pride of just seeing the Blazers featured in ESPN’s Christmas lineup, but also to watch Damian Lillard and Donovan Mitchell square off. I’ll also (selfishly) say Nov. 21 against the Milwaukee Bucks, as that game will be in my hometown of Milwaukee, Wis., and I’ll get to see Portland play in the Bucks’ new downtown arena.
Steve: If I get to pick two, I’ll add the final contest between the Blazers and Nuggets. The two Northwest Division foes will face each other in back-to-back games in April, and there will likely be serious playoff implications on the line.
What is your best guess for the Blazers’ regular season record in 2018-19?
Isaiah: Using a very scientific method (copy/pasting the schedule into a Word doc and putting a “W” or “L” by games), I got a 47-35 record for the Blazers. I’m pretty shocked at how high the win number is, to be honest. Maybe I just trust Damian Lillard a lot.
Steve: After digging through the schedule, I was actually surprised how optimistic my projection ended up being. I landed at a projected record of 48-34, just one win off last year’s total. Granted, this projection is based off the assumption that the Blazers will enjoy another relatively healthy season.
Do you agree with Isaiah and Steve? Tell us your thoughts on the Blazers’ 2018-19 schedule in the comments below.