Eye on the 8: Blazers battling for playoff spot -- what you need to know
From now until the NBA wraps up its two weeks of eight ‘seeding games,’ we will continue to keep Rip City updated on what’s happening in the playoff picture.
This series titled ‘Eye on the 8’ will be your one-stop-shop for everything surrounding the battle for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference as we take a look at the Trail Blazers road to the postseason as well as the other teams vying for a playoff berth. We will include schedule breakdowns, playoff probability, the top comments from players and coaches, and so much more.
Let’s take a quick glance at how the teams stack up against each other at the moment with a week and a half until play begins…
Portland Trail Blazers
Portland, New Orleans and Sacramento are all three-and-a-half games behind the Grizzlies.
Schedule: With only one back-to-back, and a handful of matinee games locally, the Blazers schedule is the fifth most difficult in the NBA restart. Here's how Portland’s regular season schedule shakes out:
- Friday, July 31 vs. Memphis Grizzlies
- Sunday, Aug. 2 vs. Boston Celtics
- Tuesday, Aug. 4 vs. Houston Rockets
- Thursday, Aug. 6 vs. Denver Nuggets
- Saturday, Aug. 8 vs. LA Clippers
- Sunday, Aug. 9 vs. Philadelphia 76ers
- Tuesday, Aug. 11 vs. Dallas Mavericks
- Thursday, Aug. 13 vs. Brooklyn Nets
Bubble Note: The Trail Blazers could prove to be a difficult matchup with their size. Carmelo Anthony is set to play the three with Zach Collins at the four and Jusuf Nurkic anchoring the starting lineup down low.
Current Odds to be 8th seed out West via Vegas Insider: +400
The Grizzlies go as rookie sensation Ja Morant goes. And keep in mind, this is an overall young and fairly inexperienced postseason team.
- Friday, July 31 vs. Trail Blazers
- Sunday, Aug. 2 vs. Spurs
- Monday, Aug. 3 vs. Pelicans
- Wednesday, Aug. 5 vs. Jazz
- Friday, Aug. 7 vs. Thunder
- Sunday, Aug. 9 vs. Raptors
- Tuesday, Aug. 11 vs. Celtics
- Thursday, Aug. 13 vs. Bucks
Bubble Note: All three games Memphis has against teams chasing them in the playoffs are within the first week of the restart. Additionally, talented big men Jaren Jackson Jr. and Brandon Clarke will return to the Grizzlies rotation after nursing injuries back in March.
Current Odds to be 8th seed out West via Vegas Insider: -143
New Orleans Pelicans
We know the NBA would love to get a LeBron James vs. Zion Williamson matchup in the first round. But, New Orleans is without their superstar rookie at the moment after he left the NBA's bubble for a family emergency.
Schedule: The Pelicans have the easiest schedule of this playoff chasing bunch though.
- Thursday, July 30 vs. Jazz
- Saturday, Aug. 1 vs. Clippers
- Monday, Aug. 3 vs. Grizzlies
- Thursday, Aug. 6 vs. Kings
- Friday, Aug. 7 vs. Wizards
- Sunday, Aug. 9 vs. Spurs
- Tuesday, Aug. 11 vs. Kings
- Thursday, Aug. 13 vs. Magic
New Orleans has a combined record of 5-6 against these teams this season.
Bubble Note: Zion is expected to return to Orlando before play begins. The Pelicans played 45 games without Zion this season, winning 12 of their final 17 with him sidelined.
Current Odds to be 8th seed out West via Vegas Insider: +300
The Suns at 26-39 would pretty much need a miracle to make the postseason.
- Friday, July 31 vs. Wizards
- Sunday, Aug. 2 vs. Mavericks
- Tuesday, Aug. 4 vs. Clippers
- Thursday, Aug. 6 vs. Pacers
- Saturday, Aug. 8 vs. Heat
- Sunday, Aug. 10 vs. Thunder
- Tuesday, Aug. 11 vs. 76ers
- Thursday, Aug. 13 vs. Maverick
Bubble Note: Phoenix barely sneaked in to receive an invite to Orlando, but will look to make some noise. All-Star Devin Booker is one of the league’s most potent offensive forces, but look for Dario Saric to show what he’s made of ahead of his restricted free agency this summer and especially if starting small forward Kelly Oubre can’t join the team due to his positive test of COVID-19.
Current Odds to be 8th seed out West via Vegas Insider: +6000
San Antonio Spurs
San Antonio has been to the playoffs in 22 consecutive seasons, matching the longest streak in NBA history. But, is this the year that streak is no more?
- Friday, July 31 vs. Kings
- Sunday, Aug. 2 vs. Grizzlies
- Tuesday, Aug. 3 vs. 76ers
- Thursday, Aug. 5 vs. Nuggets
- Saturday, Aug. 7 vs. Jazz
- Sunday, Aug. 9 vs. Pelicans
- Tuesday, Aug. 11 vs. Rockets
- Thursday, Aug. 13 vs. Jazz
Bubble Note: The Spurs will be without All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge who was second on the team in scoring (18.9 points) and first in rebounding (7.4). Expect Jakob Poeltl to get extended playing time in his absence and perhaps the Spurs to try going with a youthful group that passes the rock with Murray, White, Poetl running the show rather than through DeMar DeRozan.
Current Odds to be 8th seed out West via Vegas Insider: +1300
Sacramento started playing its best basketball of the season once they returned from the All-Star break. They won seven of 10 games to insert themselves just 3.5 games back of the eighth seed.
- Friday, July 31 vs. Spurs
- Sunday, Aug. 2 vs. Magic
- Tuesday, Aug. 4 vs. Mavericks
- Thursday, Aug. 6 vs. Pelicans
- Saturday, Aug. 7 vs. Nets
- Sunday, Aug. 9 vs. Rockets
- Tuesday, Aug. 11 vs. Pelicans
- Thursday, Aug. 13 vs. Lakers
Bubble Note: Kings forward Marvin Bagley injured his right foot ahead of the restart and his status is up in the air. However, he has only played in 13 games this season where the team had a -12.6 net rating with him on the floor.
Current Odds to be 8th seed out West via Vegas Insider: +1100
SO, as if you already didn’t know this -- the Blazers have their work cut out for them in Orlando.
The seven teams in each conference with the best records (which will include the team's regular-season games and the 8 seeding games in Orlando) will have clinched a playoff spot.
The eighth and final playoff spot could come down to a ‘play-in tournament.’
‘Play-in’ games won’t be necessary if the team with the eighth-best record in its conference is more than four games ahead of the team with the ninth-best record.
It should also be noted that the Dallas Mavericks are on the verge of clinching a playoff seed, but they could still fall to the No. 8 seed. The first round of the NBA playoffs will begin on Aug. 17.