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Forecasting Trail Blazers Playoff Seed, Breaking Down Tiebreakers

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Who will the Blazers play in the first round of the NBA playoffs? How many wins will they finish the season with?

Portland Trail Blazers v Charlotte Hornets Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

The Portland Trail Blazers sit smack in the middle of the Western Conference playoff standings with only 16 games to play.

The Blazers’ 40-26 record places them fifth, only a half game back from the Thunder (41-26) and 1.5 games back from the Rockets (42-25). The Jazz, Clippers, and Spurs all trail the Blazers with 29 losses.

Standings as of this morning from ESPN:

What seed are the Blazers going to get?

Given how tightly the teams are bunched, especially the Blazers, Thunder, and Rockets, it’s difficult to predict where the Blazers will finish just by glancing at the schedule. To help get a better picture of the most likely outcomes, I’ve collected several popular projections into a single spreadsheet and then aggregated their prognostications.

Sources:

ESPN BPI, 538 CARMELO, CBS Sportsline, Basketball-Reference Playoff Probabilities Report, Playoffstatus.com.

The first thing to notice is that every projection has the Warriors, Nuggets, and Rockets in the top three seeds, in that order. The Rockets are the hottest team in the NBA at the moment and the Nuggets and Warriors have a nice lead over the rest of the conference, so it’s difficult to argue with that conclusion.

The Blazers and Thunder follow, slotting into the 4/5 seed matchup in every projection but CBS SportsLine. Interestingly, the Blazers are favorites to get home court advantage in the first round. The projections have the Jazz generally close to the Blazers and Thunder, but Utah has not played well lately despite a relatively easy schedule so it’s getting more and more unlikely that they’ll jump into a top five seed.

The Spurs and Clippers bring up the rear in the bottom two playoff spots.

What about tiebreakers?

Here’s how Portland fares with tiebreakers:

Already lost or almost certainly lost:

  • Warriors — season series tied at 2-2 but Warriors will probably be Pacific Division champions and have an 8-game lead in the conference record loss column.
  • Nuggets — Blazers trail season series 0-2 with two to play but Denver has already clinched a better division record.
  • Thunder — Blazers lost season series 0-4.

Undecided:

Jazz — season series tied 2-2 but Jazz have slight lead in division and conference record.

Spurs — Blazers lead season series 2-1 with one left to play but San Antonio has a slight advantage in conference record.

Clippers — Blazers lead season series 2-1 with one to play but the Clippers have a lead in conference record.

Already won:

Rockets — Blazers won season series 2-1.

Note that the Blazers 0-4 record against the Thunder will be a major anchor if they are involved in any multi-team ties including Oklahoma City — Portland will finish last in most of those scenarios.

What’s the Magic Number?

The Blazers have 40 wins and the ninth place Kings have 33 loss. 83-(40+33) = 10.

The Blazers magic number is 10. QED.

A picture of Joel Przybilla to honor this moment:

Milwaukee Bucks v Portland Trail Blazers Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images