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Far-Fetched Friday: The Trail Blazers Put the Lakers on the Brink of Elimination
By: Ryan Stein
With the NBA season set to resume at the end of July, there are plenty of teams with something to prove as we approach the playoffs. One team that especially needs to wash off the stink from their season thus far is the Portland Trail Blazers, who had a record of 29-37. Perhaps no team had underperformed as much as the Blazers, but once the season starts up again, they will be closer to the level of play of last year's Blazers team (the team that made the Western Conference Finals.) In fact, assuming they are able to snag the 8 seed in the West, the Trail Blazers will manage to take the Los Angeles Lakers, a team many have picked to win the NBA championship, through a complete 7-game series.
Welcome back to Far-Fetched Friday, where every Friday we give you a bold prediction that we believe will come to fruition. This Friday, we take a trip up to Oregon to see Dame-Time.
8-seeds historically have been merely a stepping stone for 1-seeds on the way to deep playoff runs. Only five 8-seeds have ever eliminated 1-seeds from the first round of the playoffs, and only three of those teams have done so since 7-game series became a thing. With players that were previously injured now being available for the Trail Blazers, such as Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins, Portland is in a great position to give the Lakers a real fight in the first round. Blazers star Damian Lillard has a history of outperforming star guards on opposing team, including players like James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Chris Paul. He has always shined in the brightness of the playoff spotlight, and this potential series will be no exception.
The Lakers have no answer for him, outside of making a 35 year-old LeBron James defend Lillard. Given his age, it would be ideal for James to be able to reserve his energy for the offensive side of the ball, but that likely wouldn't be a realistic possibility with Lillard and even CJ McCollum lighting up the Lakers' guards. Nurkic's return from injury will also be a boon to the Blazers chances, as he solidified himself as the team's best player just last season. While he's no Anthony Davis, he will at least provide a skilled big body for Portland in the paint.
While it is unlikely that the Blazers would ever actually eliminate the Lakers from the playoffs, the team's potential combined with the unpredictability that comes with the NBA taking a several month hiatus before returning for the playoffs makes things interesting. Portland will drag the Lakers through a grueling 7-game series, and while the players should be fresher than they normally would be due to the extended break, there still could be some physical and emotional fatigue on the Lakers' side for future playoff rounds.
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