Damian Lillard, Blazers have Playoffs hope in the balance

Damian Lillard and the Portland Trailblazers are hoping that they can make enough noise in the bubble for a spot in the Playoffs this season.

This year’s NBA champions will be remembered as ‘that team that won inside the bubble.’ All teams entered the bubble almost on the same playing field. All came from four months of hiatus. Also, all teams, except for the Raptors, had three weeks to get their conditioning done. However, only one team will emerge on top.

There are clear favorites to win this year’s trophy. Nonetheless, there are dark horses in the bottom teams that can easily pull off an upset. The Portland Trailblazers team is one of them. However, they still have to get their wind back to make for a possible title run.

The leadership of Damian Lillard

Lillard has been the focal point of the team’s plan for the past years. Lillard has proven that he belongs in the league but has still yet to cement that with a championship. The situation of the Blazers has been peculiar. They have always had the firepower to compete, but would always fall short to escape the West.

The closest they’ve come to the trophy in recent history was last season. However, there too, the Blazers fell flat on their faces with a clean sweep from the hands of Warriors. This year, the team is facing a complete turnaround after a relatively successful year. Instead of enjoying a protected Playoffs berth, Damian Lillard and his team have to claw their way in the top eight.

Sitting on top of them is the young and scrappy Grizzlies team.

Healthy Blazers team

The only reason the Blazers are on the outside looking in the Playoffs is because of a litany of injured players entering the season. Had it not been for the injuries, they would have easily made their way in the middle of the pack. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. Looking at the glass half-full, Lillard and the Blazers are hopeful that the returning players can contribute right away.

The Portland Trailblazers get their two big men back in Zach Collins and Jusuf Nurkic. These two were sorely missed because of a porous paint defense. They sometimes had to turn to Carmelo Anthony to fill in the center duties. Sadly, their experiment didn’t work.

Collins and Nurkic played in all three of the scrimmage games, but their team still lost all three of those. Fortunately, none of those games counted for their standing. The real test will be their first matchup with the Grizzlies from the getgo. They need a win to shorten the gap. Otherwise, they may face an insurmountable uphill battle that could lead to their early bubble exit.

Image used courtesy of Keeton Gale/Shutterstock

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