The Portland Trail Blazers’ 2-8 record in their last 10 outings has placed them in the play-in portion of the Western Conference standings prior to the start of Sunday’s contest against the Memphis Grizzlies. Like last season’s postseason push, the Blazers are careening towards qualifying for the NBA Playoffs the hard way.
Unlike the Orlando-based bubble, this year’s play-in format is slightly different. Here is NBA.com’s brief breakdown of this year’s competition:
At the conclusion of the regular season but before the first round of the playoffs, the team with the 7th-highest winning percentage in each conference will host the team with the 8th-highest winning percentage in a Play-In Game (the “Seven-Eight Game”). The winner of the Seven-Eight Game in each conference will earn the No. 7 seed.
The team with the 9th-highest winning percentage in each conference will host the team with the 10th-highest winning percentage in the “Nine-Ten Game”. The loser of the Seven-Eight Game will host the winner of the Nine-Ten Game in a Play-In Game, and the winner of that game in each conference will earn the No. 8 seed.
Using today’s current standings as an example, the Blazers would host the Grizzlies in the Seven-Eight Game. The San Antonio Spurs would host the Golden State Warriors in the Nine-Ten Game. If the Blazers win, they would claim the No. 7 seed in the traditional postseason format. If the Blazers lose their opening play-in game, they would still have another shot at qualifying for the playoffs. After an opening game loss, Portland would then host the winner of the matchup between San Antonio and Golden State.
Looking ahead, Tankathon’s strength-of-schedule forecast lists the Spurs, Blazers and Pelicans inside the top 10 of the toughest remaining schedules. At the opposite end of the spectrum, the Mavericks, Warriors and Grizzlies are all listed in the bottom five of the toughest remaining schedules.
The Blazers possess the tie-breaker advantage over the Mavericks. The Grizzlies and Blazers conclude their in-season series on Wednesday.