The festivities and hoopla surrounding the NBA All-Star Game have come and gone. It is now time for the Portland Trail Blazers to make the best of the 29 games remaining on the regular season schedule. Not to sound somber, as the Blazers are just three games back of the eighth position in the Western Conference, currently held by the Houston Rockets. They still have a fighting chance to make the NBA Playoffs.
Quite honestly, whether or not the Blazers make the playoff is irrelevant. Most reasonable Blazer fans would agree that the chances of this Portland team winning a championship are very slim. With that said, being in a position to compete for a playoff spot in a year that was to end up in the green bin you roll out to the curb once a week is if nothing else a pleasant distraction. Not to mention fighting for something like a playoff spot will season the young talent on the Blazers’ inexperienced roster.
In addition to the gain of valued experience on the court, this last stretch is chance for the Blazers coaching staff and General Manager Neil Olshey to identify what players on the current roster will move forward with next year’s team. Of course skills on the hardwood are important, but so if fight and grit, and a playoff push will help determine which players on the Blazers roster possesses said intangible qualities.
The schedule leans slightly in the favor of the Blazers. To the extent that of the 29 games remaining, 16 of them are at the friendly confines of the Rose Garden. Prior to the all-star break the Blazers won 68 percent of their home games serving up a 17-8 record. On the contrary the Blazers have been abysmal on the road fielding an 8-20 record before the break, or winning just 29 percent of their away games.
If the Blazers can finish this season at .500 with 41-41 record, it should be considered a smashing success. That might be slight exaggeration, but remember this is a team most thought would not break the 30 win mark. For this to happen and considering how the team played prior to the NBA All-Star break the Blazers would need to win 11 of the their remaining home games and five of their away games. This would bring their post all-star break record to 16-13.
Is a 16-13 mark realistic, only time will tell, but based on the first two-thirds of the season it should be attainable. And if it’s not, the consolation prize is most likely they missed the playoffs and positioned themselves for another lottery pick. Meanwhile, the club entertained Blazers fans.
Also coming up in this last stretch is the 12 noon NBA Trade Deadline on February 21. As mentioned last week, in my post, Portland Trail Blazers to Stand Pat at Trade Deadline, the Blazers will most likely remain on the sidelines during trade season. The Blazers can accomplish everything they need to with the roster they currently have.
Patrick Hughes is on Twitter. Follow him at @phughespdx