What once was a Portland Trail Blazers team at the top of the Western Conference standings early in the season has turned into a struggling squad trying to find its way.
The Blazers 6-9 record in the month of March won’t cut it if they want to maintain their status as the fifth seed in the west. The Trail Blazers currently have a record of 46-27, but Golden State (44-27), Memphis (43-28) and Phoenix (43-29) are hot on their trail. Dallas (43-30) is the odd team out of the playoff race right now, but the Blazers are within striking distance and in danger of a meltdown with only nine games remaining in the regular season.
The Blazers are coming off a much needed 100-85 win over the Atlanta Hawks on Thursday, but a 10-point loss to an Orlando Magic team with the third worst record in the NBA and a blowout 30-point loss to the Charlotte Bobcats makes this team look like a squad in danger of an early exit in the playoffs (if they even make it). Even though the Hawks don’t have an impressive record of 31-40, it was important the Blazers got the win with the return of LaMarcus Aldridge after his seven-game absence because of a back injury. The Blazers had shown their strength without Aldridge after the All-Star break as he recovered from a groin injury, but their true colors were shown during his recent absence, as they went 3-4 without him. They will definitely need Aldridge to stay healthy in order to have any chance of the playoffs and advancing if they get there.
The Trail Blazers struggles obviously can’t be blamed on the absence of Aldridge. They are playing tired and its allowing teams to take advantage of them. On offense the Blazers are missing shots that seemed to fall every time earlier in the season. On defense they are slow and are getting pushed around. It doesn’t help that Western Conference contenders such as the San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Clippers and Houston Rockets are playing very well and putting more pressure on the Blazers to start winning more games and winning them now so the have some sort of positive momentum come playoff time. In reality there isn’t much hope for this team. The Western Conference is not the Eastern Conference where you can have a losing record and still compete in the playoffs. The Blazers may have a record of 46-27 but they are playing like a team that is below .500. They shouldn’t lose to the Los Angeles Lakers and they shouldn’t need to go to overtime to beat the NBA worst Milwaukie Bucks, but both of those happened and they happened recently.
If the playoffs started today the Trail Blazers would be facing off against the Rockets. Luckily for the Blazer, and unfortunately for the Rockets, role player Patrick Beverly won’t be a part of their playoff push because of a torn meniscus in his right knee. The injury to Beverly wouldn’t affect this series too much though because the Rockets are just too star-studded for the Blazers to handle. But hey, that unexpected Blazers team at the beginning of the season could pop up again, right?