During the 2013-14 NBA season, the Portland Trail Blazers emerged as one of the most dangerous teams in the Western Conference, even advancing to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2000. Despite injuries from key member Wesley Matthews, the Trail Blazers still have one of the most efficient duos in the league behind Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge. The only question is whether the team has improved on defensive flaws exploited by the San Antonio Spurs, subsequently resulting in their 4-1 elimination from the 2014 NBA postseason.
With the high level of play displayed during the postseason, does this team have anything to look forward to in the playoffs? Who controls the fate of the Portland Trail Blazers?
– Team S.U. Debates
Steve Turner (NBA Writer): The Portland Trail Blazers do have a lot to look forward to in the playoffs. Despite losing some players to injuries, this team has the star power it needs to advance in the playoffs. Portland is really going to need LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard to rise to the occasion. If the standings remain the same until the end of the season, Portland will face the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round. I have been doubting the Clippers playoff run all season, but this team is looking extremely good right now. It’s extremely possible for the Trail Blazers to win though. The most important match ups in that game will be between the point guards and the power forwards. The matchup of Chris Paul and Damian Lillard will be insane.
Lillard is going to have to shut CP3 down or the Trail Blazers are going to have a rough time. Also, LaMarcus Aldridge and Blake Griffin will be matched up. Both Aldridge and Griffin have proved that they are top power forwards in today’s league– this matchup is going to be really interesting. The Clippers also have another weapon, DeAndre Jordan, and I don’t believe either of Portland’s centers can stop this guy. If Robin Lopez or Chris Kaman can’t stop DeAndre, Portland could be in a lot of trouble.
Keith Rivas (Editor): With the 2015 NBA Playoffs looming, we’ll all now get to see the real Damian Lillard. Explosive on offense and captivating on the defensive side of the basketball, Lillard is the one-man machine that’s going to propel (in my predictions) the Blazers to the NBA Finals.
Lillard’s done with the critics, casual fans, and naysayers. He’s all about basketball and he’s about to go on a heck of a rampage. The effectiveness and playing time of fellow Portland star LaMarcus Aldrige is going to be almost irrelevant assuming that Lillard can kick it into the high gear he knows he can.
Expect nothing but run-and-gun basketball from the boys from Portland, Oregon. It’s what will take them to the next level — and with the championship mindset, we know anything is possible.
Bobby Bourhis (NBA Contributor): The Portland Trail Blazers have dealt with a handful of injuries towards the end of the regular season. Most recently Arron Afflalo went down with a shoulder injury that is expected to sideline him anywhere between one and two weeks. Portland is looking at a possible first round match up with the Los Angeles Clippers. Given that the Clippers do not have an elite shooting guard, the loss of defense from Afflalo and Wes Matthews should not hinder them too much in this series. However the reliable scoring and three-point shooting will certainly be an issue. Still, with LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard leading the team, and Robin Lopez anchoring the defense, the Trail Blazers are certainly still in a good position to advance past the first round of the playoffs.
Sauping R. Arguello (NBA Contributor): The Portland Trail Blazers have a chance to possibly advance past the first round but I don’t believe they will be the favorite in any of their matchups. They are currently in the fourth seed (51-29) because they are leading the Northwest Division, but the fifth seed which can go to either the Los Angeles Clippers, Memphis Grizzlies, or Houston Rockets (all 54-26) – will have home court advantage if the playoffs started today.
The dynamic duo of LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard have kept Portland among the Western elites but I’m not sure if they are deep enough to make a serious run in the playoffs. Aldridge has shown toughness and leadership by example, by putting off surgery until the end of the season. Lillard has continued to play with a chip on his shoulder and is more than capable of hitting clutch shots while being the go to guy down the stretch.
The key acquisition of Arron Afflalo before the trade deadline helped them mask losing Wesley Matthews for the season. Afflalo can pick up the defensive intensity of Matthews but he lacks his three-point marksmanship that is vital in spacing the floor. Their starting five was one of their strongest assets but after losing Matthews, that’s to be decided. I see them giving any of those teams (Mem.,LAC, Hou.) a run for their money and ultimately losing in 6,7 games.
Jr. Williams (NBA Editor): The Trail Blazers still have the best power forward in the game in LaMarcus Aldridge, and he will definitely help complicate things offensively for the Clippers, however, Damian Lillard and Arron Afflalo will be the players to watch during the playoffs. If both players can step up defensively then the chances of advancing to the postseason improve dramatically for their team. There’s no question in their ability to score, and this series could boil down to offensive efficiency as neither team performs great defensively. I expect an all-around shootout.