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The Portland Trail Blazers are 44 games into the 2022-23 regular season and have given fans a rollercoaster ride of hope, spliced with dread, regarding their NBA playoffs potential. Once riding high inside the first 20 games of the year, the Blazers now find themselves at 21-23, good for the No. 11 seed in the Western Conference.
The question is simple and plain: How far will Rip City go come postseason time if they continue as presently constructed?
The road ahead is not a road to perdition, but comes with its fair share of challenges along the way. The Blazers will enjoy an upcoming six-game home stand against teams like the Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs. Both are below Portland in the standings. They also have to deal with the Utah Jazz, who are only one game above the Damian Lillard-led ball club.
Their greatest test will come tonight against a Philadelphia 76ers team that is 8-2 in their last 10 games. The Blazers will also see the Toronto Raptors sporting a 6-14 record on the road, and the underachieving, oft-hurt Atlanta Hawks.
In their final 38 games, the Blazers will only tip off 17 times against teams seeded No. 6 or higher in either conference. This leaves 21 games against competition at or below their current level.
In the 32 games that Lillard has played, the Trail Blazers are an even 16-16. 12 of those 16 wins were by 10 or more points. Two areas of struggle proving deleterious to building a contending culture have been turnovers and personal fouls committed, where Portland ranks No. 26 and No. 23 respectively.
Unbeknownst to many, Portland is also No. 29 in total possessions this season. The two areas that lead to extra possessions — offensive rebounds and steals — are not bright spots for the franchise either. Taking care of the ball, hustling harder on both ends, and tightening up the defense are the most pressing issues on the itinerary for the franchise moving forward.
Be sure to vote in accordance with your pragmatic outlook on the Blazers’ postseason hopes, and let us know in the comments your sentiments on this current roster and what head coach Chauncey Billups must work on most to right the ship.
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