The Portland Trail Blazers (34-14) have been impressive up to now in the 2013-2014 season, there’s no denying that. Damian Lillard, LaMarcus Aldridge and company have been surging. If it wasn’t for Kevin Durant’s recent tear, the Blazers would be even closer to the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference at the moment. They could even rank first. Now, as we are just a couple of weeks before All-Star weekend, it’s time to examine how far can this team really go. Can they really advance to the Western Finals? Can they beat the best teams in the Conference in a seven-game series?
First of all, the Blazers have proven that they can beat the elites of the league. While they do have some flaws in their game, with defense being their major point of weakness, they have managed to roll past teams that could stand in their way during the last legs of the playoffs.
Portland is 2-1 against the top-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder, 2-0 against the San Antonio Spurs, who currently rank second in the West, and 1-0 against the Indiana Pacers, arguably the best team currently in the league. They did lose to the defending champions Miami Heat, but only by one point. Isn’t it now clear that the Blazers do have the potential to stand up firm against the top teams in the NBA?
However, it’s one thing to beat the Heat, the Pacers or the Thunder in one or two games, and it’s a totally different thing to defeat such teams during the playoffs in a seven-game series. The Portland Trail Blazers do have the best offense in the league, and they rank first in rebounding and assists. They also rank third in three-point percentage and they have one of the most exciting young point guards in Damian Lillard.
Nevertheless, it takes much more than that to find success during the postseason. Experience, especially during the postseason, is essential for any team in the playoffs. A strong bonding between the core members of the team, in other words chemistry, is also essential. Finally, it’s widely believed that defense wins championships. Not just in the NBA, but almost in any sport. So, what does that tell us?
The Portland Trail Blazers have to do something about their defense, and they have to act quickly if they want to really stand a chance of winning the Larry O’Brien trophy this season. Certainly, Lillard, Aldridge and Nicolas Batum, along with the assistance of Mo Williams and Wesley Matthews, form a very capable group for the playoffs. At the moment though, they are not considered as the favorites for the championship, not even for the title in the West.
Judging from all the facts of the season up to now, we could say that the Blazers are projected to make a strong push during the playoffs. They will certainly be an opponent many teams will want to avoid. But, because the Western Conference has an extremely high level of competition, even the sixth or seventh-seeded teams won’t be easy for Portland to beat. Teams like the Memphis Grizzlies, the Phoenix Suns or the Golden State Warriors are fully capable of eliminating Portland. So the most realistic prediction for the Portland Trail Blazers this season is that they will continue to be impressive and they will set the foundation for even greater things to come in near future.