Trail Blazers get stranglehold on playoff berth, 4th seed a possibility

Trail Blazers get stranglehold on playoff berth, 4th seed a possibility
March 30, 2014, 10:00 pm
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Lopez: Ratcheting up games going forward

Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (0) shoots the ball over Memphis Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph (50) during the third quarter at the Moda Center.

(Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports)

In the middle of Portland coach Terry Stotts' press conference following his team's 105-98 win over Memphis Sunday night at the Moda Center he was asked if he had noticed other scores from around the Western Conference that could impact the Trail Blazers' playoff positioning.

Phoenix losing 115-99 at the Los Angeles Lakers?

"I saw the score before coming in here," Stotts said.

Golden State going down 89-84 at home to the New York Knicks?

“I saw the finish of that, as well,” Stotts said before grinning and adding, “not that it matters.”

That line brought laughter from the press corps because everyone in the room knew it was laced with sarcasm.

Bottom line: It was a good night for Portland in every way imaginable and Trail Blazers fans can stop sweating.

Portland's win over Memphis didn't clinch a playoff berth for the Blazers but it did make not reaching the playoffs a virtual impossibility unless they completely implode.

A three-game winning streak on the heels of losing nine of the previous 14 this month has put the fifth-place Blazers in position to take a crack at the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference.

With seven games remaining on the team's schedule, Portland (48-27) opened up a four-game lead over Memphis (43-30) as the Grizzlies fell to ninth in the West. If Memphis went 7-0 the rest of the way, Portland would only need to win 4-of-7 to clinch a playoff berth. The Grizzlies haven't had a seven-game winning streak all season and have games remaining at San Antonio and home against Miami.

The seventh-place Suns (44-30) now trail Portland by 3 1/2 games.

The Blazers play at the Lakers (25-58) on Tuesday before returning home to play five of their final six games at the Moda Center.

Meanwhile, the fourth-place Rockets (49-23) lead Portland by 2 1/2 games but just one game in the win column. Houston plays six of its final 10 games on the road and will do so without point guard Patrick Beverley, who suffered a torn meniscus that could keep him out the rest of the season.

With a little luck, Portland could jump to fourth. Or, with some bad luck, the Blazers could fall to sixth. Golden State (45-28) trails the Blazers by two games. The Warriors play five of their final nine games on the road.

Nothing is for certain but after what has for the most part been a rough month, the Trail Blazers have worked their way out of a potential collapse and into a much-stronger position heading into the final two weeks of the season.