With the All-Star Game festivities behind us, the Portland Trail Blazers are well-positioned going into the final stretch of the NBA regular season. The Blazers are in fourth place in the Western Conference, seven games back from leaders Golden State and four ahead of ninth-placed Sacramento. The question now isn’t so much whether the Blazers make the playoffs but how far they’ll go.
Blazers Looking Strong in NBA Betting
Portland has a 98% chance of making the playoffs, according to ESPN’s latest NBA power rankings. The NBA betting odds appear to suggest the same thing. Portland is currently in the top 10 or 11 teams in NBA title odds, according to most online bookmakers, and has even better odds when it comes to the divisional and playoff races.
Bet365 is currently offering 13/2 odds on the Blazers winning the Northwest Division for the second straight year. These odds take into account the fact that the Northwest is the tightest division in the NBA, with all five teams still in playoff contention – and four of them, including the Blazers likely to qualify. Denver and Oklahoma City, the second- and third-ranked teams in the West respectively, are the top two in Northwest Division betting odds.
The Blazers are still technically in the running for the Western Conference title. 888 Sport is paying 37.00 for the Blazers to win the conference for the first time since 1992. Although it’s unlikely the Blazers can go that far, you have to consider that the Golden State Warriors are a 1.30 favorite in conference betting odds and that no other team is lower than 10.00.
What Blazers Must Do to Advance in NBA Playoffs
If the Blazers approach the final 25 games of the regular season the same way they approached the first 57, they’ll make the playoffs. Portland have a 34-23 record, putting them four games ahead of ninth-placed Sacramento. But an equally important indicator is that the Blazers have a +3.0 point differential, putting them 10th in the league.
All-star Damian Lillard’s stats line of 26.3 points per game and 6.4 assists per game puts him in elite company. Center Jusuf Nurkic is 15th in the league for average rebounds with 10.2 rpg. As long as the Blazers’ star trio of Lillard, Nurkic, and guard C.J. McCollum stay fit and healthy, the Blazers will be in with a chance of holding on to fourth spot and having home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
Working against the Blazers is their schedule. They have only nine games remaining at the Moda Center, the fewest number of home games left of any team in the league. They do have 12 games remaining against teams from the weak Eastern Conference, more than any of the other current top six in the West. However, this includes away games against Toronto, Boston, and Philadelphia, who all have better records than the Blazers.
Verdict: Second Round Might be the Limit
Although the Blazers are looking strong, anything more than the conference semis would be a betting surprise. While this would be Portland’s sixth straight appearance in the NBA playoffs, the Blazers have only actually won two series during that period. If the regular season were to end today, it would put fourth-placed Portland on course to meet in the Golden State Warriors in the second round. Blazers fans can dream of beating Durant, Curry, and the Warriors, but even the bravest fan might think twice before betting on such a result.