The schedule makers did the Portland Trail Blazers no favors heading into the last stretch of the 2012-13 season. With a 31-36 record, Portland is clinging to faint playoff hopes. Over the course of the next 28 days, they play 15 games. But the next four games will probably decide Portland’s playoff fate. Every team on the schedule during this stretch is playoff bound and fighting for a desirable post season seed.
Tuesday evening the Blazers once again refused to quit. After getting behind by 27 to the Milwaukee Bucks, the Blazers battled back to come within seven points of a comeback victory. You have to wonder if all the close games that more often than not end in defeat are having an effect on the psyche of the team.
This upcoming stretch of games is a run through the gauntlet for Portland. Monday, the Blazers fell to the Philadelphia 76ers 101-100 after LaMarcus Aldridge missed a short jumper at the buzzer. There was no time to lick their wounds, as they had to board a post-game flight to Milwaukee to take on the Bucks Tuesday evening. Still reeling from the defeat against the Bucks, the Blazers will board a bus and head onto Chicago to take on a hungry Bulls team Thursday evening. It doesn’t get any easier on Friday, as they again play back to back games against another playoff bound team, the Atlanta Hawks. Although they will have Saturday off, Sunday they travel to Oklahoma City to take on the Thunder. After Sunday’s game they will have a couple days to catch their breath before taking on the Brooklyn Nets at Rose Garden.
To add insult to injury, the Blazers find themselves in a precarious situation. On one hand, they need to overcome long odds to make the playoffs. On the other, their better than expected play has put them in a position where they may finish the season outside of the playoffs, but inside a top 12 finish in the Western Conference. If this happens the Blazers lose their first round pick which would go to Charlotte as part of last season’s Gerald Wallace trade.
This is a scenario that is less than desirable for fans, players, coaches, and general managers alike. Everyone wants to see good play on the court and no one wants to see the team give up. But if everyone is fair and honest, we would all admit that this team is about the future and not the present.
The silver lining to a situation like this could be in extended minutes for the young players that will make up future Blazer rosters. Not to say that Coach Terry Stotts hasn’t been doing this all along, but cutting into the minutes of players like J.J. Hickson might be inevitable. At the end of the day, when stuck between a rock and a hard place, it’s probably best to do what needs to be done to prevent a return to a compromising position.
Patrick Hughes is on Twitter. Follow him at @phughespdx