With the Los Angeles Lakers having all but secured the top seed in the Western Conference, focus may soon shift to the bottom half of the standings and playoff picture.
The Memphis Grizzlies currently hold possession of the eighth seed, but hot on their heels are the San Antonio Spurs and Portland Trail Blazers. A little further back, but still in the picture, are the New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings.
The Spurs, Trail Blazers, Pelicans and Kings each are within 3.5 games of the Grizzlies. The NBA restart will include a play-in opportunity should any ninth seed be four games or fewer back of the eighth-place team.
Portland has a playoff staple for the better part of the last decade and Danny Green sees them as the toughest matchup for the Lakers, he explained on his “Inside the Green Room” podcast:
“I wouldn’t say that we fear anybody, but if we were to choose to have a first-round matchup, I think we’d probably lean away from Portland. They have more experience, they have Dame, they have C.J., guys that can score the ball. They have Nurkic back, they have a lot of threats and a lot of experience. Not saying those other teams don’t have threats, but they are younger. Memphis is very young. Everybody want to see the New Orleans matchup.
“Of course, they want to see Zion, LeBron, and A.D., and of course, that would be an exciting matchup for the fans, but for us realistically, we probably see Portland as more of a threat because of their experience. Those other two teams are very good, but Portland is probably more of a threat to us because of their experience.”
The Lakers have had their fair share of problems with the Trail blazers over the years. Until they snapped a streak in 2018, L.A. had lost an unprecedented 16 straight games to Portland, spanning five seasons.
The Lakers also lost their most recent game to the Trail Blazers this past January. It should make for an intriguing playoff race to wind down the season.
Charles Barkley says the Trail Blazers would beat Lakers
Charles Barkley, known to stir the pot, has picked the Trail Blazers to upset the Lakers should they meet in the the first round of the playoffs.
Barkley has a history of bold playoff predictions, but isn’t entirely off base here. Portland performed well in the playoffs with the combination of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. The Lakers would obviously be favored in any first-round matchup, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Trail Blazers push them in a difficult series.
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