PORTLAND, Ore. — The Portland Trail Blazers are playing their best basketball of the season, winning five of six games on their longest road trip of the season. The Blazers' recent surge has set up a captivating race for the fifth and sixth seeds in the Western Conference between the Blazers, Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Lakers.
The fifth- and sixth-seeded teams get a guaranteed spot in the playoffs and as many as five days of rest between the end of the regular season and the start of the postseason. The team that falls to the seventh seed will have to compete in the play-in tournament just to make the playoffs, where they'll face either the No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the first round.
Portland has an important home game Friday against the Lakers. If Portland wins, the Blazers will win the season series against L.A., two games to one, assuring the tiebreaker in the case of a two-way tie with the Lakers. The Blazers already own the tiebreaker with the Mavericks.
Friday also marks the first time the Blazers will welcome fans back into the Moda Center. On Wednesday, the team announced it received approval to open the arena to fans at 10% capacity.
On this week's KGW 3-on-3 Blazers podcast, KGW sports anchor Orlando Sanchez and digital producers Jared Cowley and Max Barr discuss the improved play of the Blazers, fans returning to the Moda Center, the job security of head coach Terry Stotts, and the playoff race with the Lakers and Mavericks.
LISTEN: 3-on-3 Blazers podcast
BY THE NUMBERS
Here's a look at how the Blazers have been performing lately, divided into time frames that show how Portland has improved over the season, especially since Jusuf Nurkic returned from injury. NBA ranks are in parentheses:
Past six games
- Offensive rating: 126.8 (1)
- Defensive rating: 110.6 (9)
- Net rating: +16.2 (2)
Since Jusuf Nurkic's return on March 26
- Offensive rating: 117.9 (1)
- Defensive rating: 112.8 (17)
- Net rating: +5.1 (6)
Jan. 16-March 25 (while Nurkic was injured)
- Offensive rating: 117.0 (4)
- Defensive rating: 118.4 (30)
- Net rating: -1.4 (21)
Dec. 20-Jan. 15 (pre-Nurkic injury)
- Offensive rating: 113.7 (6)
- Defensive rating: 113.5 (26)
- Net rating: +0.3 (13)
All stats courtesy of NBA.com