In a season in which it looked like they might not make the postseason at all, the Portland Trail Blazers ended up securing their fourth-consecutive playoff berth with a few games to spare.
By virtue of the Oklahoma City Thunder defeating the Denver Nuggets 106-105 Sunday afternoon on a buzzer-beatinger game-winning three from Russell Westbrook (a shot that was appreciated by Portland’s backcourt) at the Pepsi Center, the Trail Blazers are now locked into the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Portland has now qualified for the playoffs for the fourth time in as many years. It is the 33rd time in 47 seasons that the Trail Blazers have made the postseason.
After wrapping up their regular season with home games against the San Antonio Spurs and New Orleans Pelicans, the Trail Blazers will move on to face the reigning Western Conference champion Golden State Warriors, owners of the best record in the NBA at 66-14, in the one vs. eight matchup. Game One will be scheduled for either Saturday or Sunday at Oracle Arena in Oakland. Game Two will also be played at Oracle, with games Three and Four taking place at the Moda Center. Schedules for all first round playoff games will be announced Wednesday, April 12. Tickets go on sale for games Three and Four Thursday, April 13 on trailblazers.com, Ticketmaster and the Rose Quarter ticket office. Fans can sign up for the playoff ticket presale at trailblazers.com/presale.
The Trail Blazers enter the series as prohibitive underdogs, having bested the Warriors just once in the last seven regular season contests. Portland swept by the Warriors this season, losing all four games by an average of 19.5 points, including a 135-90 loss in Oakland on December 17 that ranks as the largest margin of victory in the history of the matchup. But if you’re looking for silver linings, the Trail Blazers lost the two game versus the Warriors at the Moda Center this season by a combined 10 points.
Portland’s first round matchup versus Golden State will also be a rematch of last year’s Western Conference second round series, one the Warriors took 4-1 before eventually losing to the Cavaliers in the NBA Finals. And that was before Golden State signed former MVP Kevin Durant, who recently returned from a sprained MCL injury, as a free agent this offseason.
As for players returning from injury, the Trail Blazers will be hoping to get some good news with regard to the non-displaced fracture in center Jusuf Nurkić ’s right leg which has sidelined the center for the last five games and for the remainder of the regular season. Nurkić, whose play was largely responsible for the team turning their season around after being acquired via trade from the Denver Nuggets at the end of February, will be re-evaluated prior to the start of the postseason, at which time his availability for Game One will likely be determined.
There are still two games to play before full attention can turn toward the Warriors, but with a playoff spot sewn up, the Trail Blazers will now have nearly a week to rest and prepare for the postseason, even with a little regular season work left to do.