So now what?
With the homecourt advantage and the No. 4 seed in the West wrapped up Tuesday night in Los Angeles, do the Trail Blazers rest their regulars Wednesday night in Moda Center vs. the Sacramento Kings, or do they chase the No. 3 seed?
The best chance of getting the higher seed would probably require playing the starters, rather than giving them an obligatory game off at the end of the season. For a few of the Trail Blazers, I’d advocate a night off.
But the No. 3 seed could possibly mean a first-round matchup vs. San Antonio, depending on results of other games Wednesday night. Certainly the Spurs would appear to be a more advantageous opponent for Portland than Utah, which would be the opposition if the Blazers settle for the fourth seed. But there are no guarantees which team would be there.
And of course it’s always possible Coach Terry Stotts could put together a lineup Wednesday night without some of his key players that would still beat the Kings.
Stotts would not tip his hand Tuesday night about his plans.
“I’m not talking about that tonight,” he said.
It’s almost become customary in the NBA these days to sit premier players in these sorts of situations. In fact, some players see it as something of a status symbol. But most of them would never publicly ask for the rest game.
Who would I rest?
I’d start with Damian Lillard, who has looked tired since the recent four-game trip that concluded with the game at Minnesota, and CJ McCollum, who probably shouldn’t be playing back-to-back games coming off his knee injury. Seth Curry has become an important scorer and has had some aches and pains lately – I think I’d rest him, too.
And honestly, any other player who wants a day off, I’d be easy to convince. You can talk about homecourt and seeding all you want, but the health of your players always has to come first. And taking a tired team into the playoffs is a recipe for disaster, homecourt or not.
I’d want them rested and ready. As you might expect, the players had no interest in taking a side Tuesday.
“Our focus has been to get homecourt,” Lillard said. “And tonight we did that. We’ll worry about tomorrow, tomorrow.”
The Blazer win over the Lakers was accomplished thanks to Maurice Harkless’s three-point shot at the buzzer. It was the only three-pointer Portland’s starting forwards hit in seven attempts.
Harkless was asked about the possible courses of action Wednesday night.
“We’ve all thought about it. But we’re not fixated on it. We’ll see what happens tomorrow,” Harkless said. “Coach has a couple of decisions to make and so we’ll just do whatever he feels comfortable doing.”