Easier Path to April Will Help Portland, Especially After Turner’s Recent Injury
As the final quarter of the NBA season approaches and teams gear up for the playoffs, this final stretch is crucial. The Portland Trail Blazers find themselves in a roller coaster season thus far and in need for something drastic. Portland is battling for the final playoff spot in West, along with Denver, Sacramento, Dallas and New Orleans. As of Sunday, they are one game back of the Nuggets.
With every game important, the rest of the season is easier on paper for Portland.
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Portland’s remaining opponents are a combined 736-772, producing a winning percentage of .488. This gives Portland the 4th easiest schedule for the final 29 games in the NBA. Even though the next two games are going to be tough Hawks and Jazz, the Blazers play a stretch of mediocre, non-contending teams multiple times.
Not much could benefit the Blazers right now more than one of the easier schedules in the league. Evan Turner fractured his hand, putting him out for 1-2 months. His absence takes away another ball-handler and playmaker. Turner was averaging almost 10 points, 4 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game this season, while showing vast improvement in the fast few weeks. Players like Allen Crabbe and Maurice Harkless will have to step up to fill Turner’s absence. It will be easier to incorporate more experienced players into the lineup, as a playoff run can’t coexist with player development.
January 4, 2017; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant (35) dribbles the basketball against Portland Trail Blazers forward Maurice Harkless (4) during the third quarter at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Trail Blazers 125-117. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
The Grass Is Looking Greener
In the first half of the season, Portland had one of the league’s toughest schedules. Facing Golden State, Oklahoma City, Utah and Boston twice… needless to say it’s been tough. The disappointing play of Portland hasn’t made things any better, but an easy remaining schedule is promising. This gives the Blazers a huge opportunity to put together another run like last year and shoot up the playoff ranking.
Combine this with the recent trade for Jusuf Nurkic and a run from Portland is looming. This young team is still hungry. Only time will tell for now, making these next two months look very exciting. We will have to wait and see what is more significant: Turner’s injury or Portland’s cupcake schedule.