After the Portland Trail Blazers rallied to beat the shorthanded Denver Nuggets on Sunday night, the team’s playoff forecast gained some clarity.
The 2-4 seeds are tightly bunched, but the Blazers do not own the tiebreaker with the Nuggets, so the 2nd seed is out of reach.
2. Nuggets: 53-27
3. Rockets: 53-28 (0.5 games back)
4. Blazers: 51-29 (2 games back)
5. Jazz: 49-31 (4 games back)
The NBA is taking Monday night off so as not to compete with the NCAA Men’s Championship game, but meaningful games will be played on Tuesday.
The Trail Blazers visit the Los Angeles Lakers, who are well out of the playoff picture. However, Los Angeles upset the Utah Jazz on Sunday night, pushing Portland’s magic number for home court advantage in the first-round down to one game. That means that either a Blazers win OR a Utah loss (against the Denver Nuggets) ensures that the Blazers will fall no further than 4th in the standings.
It is technically possible for the Blazers to jump up to the 3rd seed and avoid the Golden State Warriors, should they win their first round series. Portland would need to win out against the Lakers on Tuesday and the Kings on Wednesday, Houston would need to lose to Oklahoma City on Tuesday, AND the Nuggets would need to cough one up against either the Jazz or the Clippers. If the Blazers land the 3 seed, that would likely lead to a first-round match up with the Thunder, who have dominated the Blazers this season.
Should the Blazers finish 4th, which is the most likely scenario, they would face the Jazz in the first round. Portland and Utah split a chippy season series 2-2. But without center Jusuf Nurkic available, Utah center Rudy Gobert will be a difficult load for Enes Kanter and Zach Collins to handle.
No matter how it all shakes out, the odds are strong that the Blazers will open up the playoffs this weekend from Moda Center.