IF THE SHREDDED meniscus in Brandon Roy's knee wasn't enough to rob Blazers fans of sleep, this year's playoff seeding race will likely come down to the final seconds of the season. Since the cruel deadlines of the print media world don't allow us to know for certain whom the Blazers will meet in the opening round of the Western Conference playoffs, we tried using a haphazard collection of mathematically precise stats, along with the power of prayer, but we give up. Considering the absolutely baffling NBA tiebreaker rules, it's impossible to accurately predict this sort of thing. Instead, we're just going to trust our instincts (yes, the very same instincts that, when presented with nearly the exact same scenario a year ago, predicted the Blazers wouldn't play the Houston Rockets) and list the three teams Portland is most likely to see when the playoffs tip off this weekend.
Advantages of Playing the Nuggets: While hardly a matchup the Blazers will welcome, Denver has been known to meltdown in fiery displays of oncourt bellyaching and streaky shooting; the same bravado that helps this team play with a carefree level of confidence is also their weakness. Although they'll have the homecourt advantage, the Nuggets are the only Western Conference playoff team to have a losing record on the road. Plus, with Denver, the likely absence of Roy will hurt Portland less than expected, since the Blazers' lone all-star struggled against the Nuggets all season long. Another reason why Portland wants Denver: The Mile High altitude makes the Blazers bench players feel like they are doing whip-its.
Disadvantages of Playing the Nuggets: Portland Coach Nate McMillan insists that the Blazers can play with the division champion Nuggets, but perhaps he hasn't relayed this message to his team. So far this season the Blazers have dropped three of four games with Denver, and barely shot 40 percent from the field in those losses. Also, the Nuggets never lose at home (just seven times on the year), and thanks to that aforementioned thin Rocky Mountain air, they have one of the best homecourt advantages in the league. It should also be mentioned that their mascot, Rocky the Mountain Lion, looks eerily similar to detestable Blaze the Trail Cat. It's just the same stupid costume with a different jersey on it.
Advantages of Playing the Suns: There are plenty. The Suns are a favorable playoff foe for the Blazers, since their reckless offense-first, defense-whenever style of play has a track record for fizzling in the postseason. Phoenix is the only playoff option less physical than the Blazers, and while the Suns like to open up the court and run, the Blazers are younger, with fresher legs. Disadvantages of Playing the Suns: The Suns have experience in the postseason, and with the exception of Marcus Camby, the Blazers definitely do not. If you take Camby out of the equation, the combined Blazers roster has about 1200 less playoff minutes than Steve Nash alone. Also, don't forget that Amar'e Stoudemire is in a contract year, and after Hedo Turkoglu turned a good postseason run into a maximum contract last season, the Suns big man will have something to prove on national television.
Advantages of Playing the Jazz: NONE.
Disadvantages of Playing the Jazz: The sport of basketball. This is the worst-case scenario for the Blazers, since Utah has humiliated Portland four previous times this year. They are everything the Blazers are not, plus their physical, elbow-tossing ways under the basket will force us to start referring to the delicately tender LaMarcus Aldridge as "LaMarshmallow." No one wants that. Truth be told no player in his right mind wants to go to Utah. You can't even buy real beer there.