If the season ended today, the Portland Trail Blazers would be in the NBA Western Conference Playoffs. At the beginning of the season, not too many would have guessed this to be possible. With that said, there is of course a lot of season left. But this team has demonstrated, grit, poise, and the will to win. If they continue to play this scrappy brand of basketball, there is no reason to think they couldn’t end up in the playoffs.
Routinely, games come down to the final buzzer. In the last six games, the most a game has been decided by is six points. Thursday verses the Miami Heat, Wesley Matthews hit a corner three to edge out the defending NBA Champs 92-90. Sunday night against the explosive Oklahoma City Thunder, they narrowly lost getting nudged out in the final seconds, losing 87-83 at the Rose Garden.
What is most impressive is that the Blazers are playing like they expect to win and they are maximizing their talent. They are still hindered by a lack of depth on their bench. But their starters are thus far willing to play big minutes each and every night and show no signs of letting up. The bench does include some young guys that show some promise for the future. Victor Claver has played well at times, as has Will Barton, Meyers Leonard and Joel Freeland.
New General Manager Neil Olshey is looking like a genius for selecting Damian Lillard with the 6th pick in last summer’s draft. Friday, Lillard scored 37 points, 29 coming in the second half during a close loss at Golden State. Olshey’s move to keep Nicolas Batum in the fold is also looking savvy. Batum is averaging a career best 16.6 points per game and is passing the ball incredibly well. He is becoming a great all-around player.
The Trail Blazers should continue to excite and create a little playoff inspired drama in the second half of the season. If they continue to grow and develop as a team, Blazer fans should have a lot reason for optimism this season and seasons to come.
Patrick Hughes is on Twitter. Follow him at @phughespdx