PORTLAND, Ore. — The Portland Trail Blazers are 3-1 in the NBA bubble and have pulled within a game of the Memphis Grizzlies for eighth place in the Western Conference.
The Blazers have four seeding games left and if Portland is able to secure the eight seed, it would give the team a huge boost in its quest to reach the playoffs for the seventh year in a row.
If Portland is eighth and competes in the play-in against the ninth-seeded team, they'd only have to win one game to advance to the playoffs while the ninth seed would have to win two games.
The Blazers' remaining schedule remains difficult. The final four seeding games are against the Clippers, 76ers, Mavericks and Nets. But after four games, Portland has improved its position and KGW's 3-on-3 Blazers podcast crew got together to talk about the Blazers' performance in the NBA Bubble thus far and what to expect going forward.
The national media is also taking notice. Here's what some of them (and one local writer) wrote or said about the Blazers after Thursday's win against the Nuggets:
EXCERPT: The team that needed a pandemic and four months off to get healthy, find its form, and look like the group that went to the Western Conference finals a year ago, the Blazers, just might give the Lakers a run in a first-round playoff matchup.
Portland is simply a different team with Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins in the lineup. Both were out recovering from surgeries before the pandemic struck. Considering the depth of Portland’s roster and star power at the top (don’t forget, Carmelo Anthony is a Blazer, as a fourth or fifth scoring option — not bad), it would appear they are destined for the play-in. READ MORE
EXCERPT: Gary Trent Jr. on Thursday continued his torrid play at the NBA restart with 27 points, which included seven 3-pointers, as the Trail Blazers beat Denver 125-115 to move within one-half game of eighth-place Memphis with four games remaining.
"It seems like he makes every shot he shoots," Blazers star Damian Lillard said.
Trent Jr. is rivaling Indiana's T.J. Warren and Denver’s Michael Porter Jr. as the breakout player of the NBA restart. In four games, Trent Jr. is averaging 20.3 points while shooting a sizzling 62.3 percent from 3-point range (22-of-35), all while excelling as a wing defender, plugging the Blazers’ most glaring hole. READ MORE
EXCERPT: In late May, before the NBA's bubble plan was official, before the restart format was known, Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard made it clear: He wasn't coming unless he had a chance.
Four games into the restart, he's showing why. With a 125-115 win over the Denver Nuggets on Thursday in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, his Blazers have effectively closed the gap on the Memphis Grizzlies for the 8-seed in the Western Conference playoff picture.
"Y'all know that I'm always optimistic and always see the best in situations like this, and it's why I said what I said a few months ago when I said, 'If we don't have a chance to compete for a playoff spot, I don't want to play,'" Lillard said. "Because I knew if we did have a chance to play for a playoff spot, it would look something like it looks right now." READ MORE
PODCAST EXCERPT: "Portland has been such a special bubble team. Lillard has gone five other levels beyond, and the guy was already great anyway. I'm starting to wonder, could he beat the Lakers in Round 1? Could that team really give them a conversation?
"We talked about this. We've had multiple texts about this, where in a lot of ways it's a worst-case scenario matchup for a team that gets the 1 seed and then they have to play Portland, which might be the third best team in the West and has these two guards they're going to have a lot of trouble matching up with. The key is the Blazers have nobody to match up with LeBron." READ MORE