The Blazers’ final 8 game schedule has been released. And boy, does it look difficult. The Blazers were originally slated to finish with one of the easiest schedules in the league. Yet, the next 8 games have the Blazers facing 8 playoff teams as the Blazers fight for a chance at the 8th seed. This bodes the question: Can the Blazers make the playoffs? Let’s look at the Blazers’ schedule and find out.
Game 1: Blazers vs Grizzlies
This is a pivotal, near must win game for the Trail Blazers. The Grizzlies are the lone team standing between Portland and the 8th seed. With the Grizzlies themselves facing a difficult schedule, Portland winning this game would be huge for them, and would drastically improve their chances at the playoffs.
With Nurkic and Collins returning, the Memphis Grizzlies will likely struggle to guard the Blazers’ front-court. The Blazers will also need to get full production from Lillard and McCollum. If Valanciunas and Morant can be slowed, the Blazers have a great chance to win this game.
Game 2: Blazers @ Celtics
This is one of the tougher games on the Blazers’ schedule, as the Celtics have 3 all star level players along with a very solid bench. The last time they faced off, both teams were without their star point guards, Damian Lillard and Kemba Walker, and the Celtics won by 12.
To win this game, the Blazers have to be firing on all engines. Dame and CJ need to come up big offensively over Kemba and Jaylen Brown, while the Blazers need to figure out a way to slow down Tatum with Trevor Ariza opting out of the season. All in all, this seems like a very tough game, and it is likely that the Blazers walk out of this one with a loss.
Game 3: Blazers vs Rockets
Yes, the Rockets have a higher seed and better team than the Blazers. However, I feel quite confident about the Blazers chances here. The injury riddled Blazers are 2-1 against the Rockets this season, with Lillard, CJ, and Whiteside sharing most of the offensive load. With Nurkic and Collins back, the Blazers present a huge (quite literally) problem for the small ball Rockets.
If Dame and CJ perform as usual, with Whiteside and Nurkic feasting on the boards, this should be a winnable game for the Trail Blazers. Russ and Harden will perform well as usual, but the Rockets lack significant offense outside of them. This is a great chance to build momentum for the Blazers.
Game 4: Blazers @ Nuggets
Another tough game. The Blazers haven’t won a single game against the Nuggets this year. Either CJ, Dame, or both have been contained effectively, and Nikola Jokic feasted in each game. With Nurkic and Collins back, the Blazers should be able to defend and score in the paint better, but the Blazers will need all the help they can get.
The key to winning this game is finding opportunities for Lillard and McCollum. If the two can light it up, the Blazers have a good chance to win. Otherwise, the Blazers could face another blowout loss.
Game 5: Blazers vs Clippers
Yikes. This is the hardest game on the Blazers’ schedule. The Blazers are 0-2 against the Clippers this year, and Lillard and McCollum have struggled. Nurkic and Collins should provide some help against Harrell, but Kawhi and PG13 will feast against our weak Small Forwards, especially Carmelo.
If Lillard, CJ, Nurkic, and Whiteside can all have big games, Portland stands a chance. Otherwise, I’m chalking this one up into the loss column.
Game 6: Blazers vs 76ers
The Blazers and 76ers faced off once this season, where the Blazers lost by 1 to a Furkan Korkmaz 3 with less than a second left. The good news is that Lillard played very well, CJ had an off game and the Blazers only lost by 1, and that Nurkic and Collins are back.
I can see this as a win for the Blazers. Dame and CJ need to do their thing, and Nurkic and Whiteside should provide more than enough front-court firepower. Carmelo should have a decent game, and Collins should be able to provide solid help. With Embiid and Simmons yet to find their chemistry, the Blazers should be able to take this one.
Game 7: Blazers @ Mavericks
This should be a fun one. Dame vs Luka. CJ vs Tim Hardaway Jr. Nurkic vs Porzingis. The Blazers and 1-2 against the Mavericks (losing by 8 twice) without their healthy front-court. It’s clear that the Mavericks have no way to stop Lillard or McCollum. Nurkic and Whiteside should be able to feast in the paint as well. While the Blazers can’t guard Luka, Lillard should be able to out-produce him.
I can definitely see this as a win, especially with the Blazers healthy. The Mavericks have no answer to our fully healthy squad. A loss to Dallas would be extremely disappointing.
Game 8: Blazers @ Nets
Another fun one, mainly because get the marquee matchup of Dame vs Kyrie (if Kyrie plays). Both Lillard and Kyrie will feast, though I’d give the edge to Lillard who dropped 60 points in a loss vs Brooklyn during a rough game for McCollum. With a healthy squad, the Blazers are clearly the superior team. Nurkic and Whiteside are bound to have great games here, especially Nurkic, who broke his leg vs Brooklyn last season. As such, he should come into this game with an edge.
The Blazers should come out on top here. They are simply the better team on both ends. A loss here would be a very bad look, and would dash any momentum for the postseason. As such, I trust in the Blazers to take care of this one.
I have the Blazers going 5-3 in this stretch, likely taking the 8th seed or qualifying for a play-in via keeping 9th. However, I could also see the Blazers coming up big against the Nuggets, Celtics, and Clippers (especially if Kawhi load manages). On the flip side, I could see Portland doing as poorly as 1-7 if they can’t pull themselves together. The Blazers’ schedule is a difficult one, but in the end, I have to say they have a strong chance for the playoffs.
It’s a matter of effort from here. How much do the Blazers want it? In what seems like a lost season, will the Blazers come through with a final push and break through? If they do, Portland is primed to be one of the scariest 8th seeds in recent memory, with a strong chance to give the 1st seeded Lakers some trouble.
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