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After 82 long games, it’s finally time—the playoffs are here. No possessions off, win or go home, best out of seven for the right to lose to the Warriors in the next round. Someone call Pitbull, it’s about to get lit.

As they’ve been doing all year, the Trail Blazers are playing with house money. When there are no expectations, there’s nothing to lose. Nobody expected them to make the playoffs, let alone as the fifth seed. Nobody is giving them a chance in this series. Started from the bottom now they’re here. No matter what happens against the Clippers, this season has been a massive success.

An oh, the Clippers. They’re the most hateable, annoying, and loathsome team in these playoffs. (Sorry, Rockets, but you just aren’t good enough to inspire that kind of reaction.) The whining, the flopping, the outrage at the lack of foul calls, Chris Paul's nut punches—it all adds up to one rat king of terribleness. Young Metro don’t trust the Clippers, and you shouldn’t either.

On paper, the Clippers are by far the superior team. Chris Paul, JJ Redick, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan are all better than their Portland counterparts. That’s an advantage at four out of five starting positions, the only weak spot coming from their rotating small forward carousel of Luc Richard Mbah a Moute or Paul “Bernie Lomax” Pierce.

Unfortunately for Portland, their bench is a clear advantage. With no back to back games, playoff rotations tend to get tighter with starters taking on a heavier minutes load. The drop-off from Chris Paul to Austin Rivers is staggering, and though Rivers would provide some much needed comic relief with his terrible shot selection and over-dribbling, chances are he’ll barely see the court. Ed Davis, Allen Crabbe, and Gerald Henderson will most likely keep their normal rotations, but they won’t have a second unit to beat up on.

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So what, apart from getting Blake Griffin to punch another equipment manager, do the Blazers need to do to win? Expect a lot of offensive rebounding. Portland is one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the league while the Clippers are one of the worst on the defensive glass. Neither team turns the ball over much, so the Blazers will need those extra possessions against an efficient Clippers offense. Also, don’t be surprised if Terry Stotts goes to Hack-a-Jordan early and often to try and disrupt the flow of the game.

The Clippers are 3-1 against Portland for the season series but that doesn’t tell the full story. CJ McCollum missed one game due to a clerical error, Damian Lillard missed most of another, Griffin was only around for the first two contests, and JJ Redick hit a game-winner in another. The Blazers found another gear when they moved Moe Harkless into the starting lineup and Griffin still isn’t anywhere near 100%. With the bloodbath happening in the rest of the Western Conference first round, this matchup feels like the best shot at a competitive seven game series.

Heading into tonight I’m pessimistic but hoping for the best, which pretty much describes this Blazers season overall. They’ve been overachieving since day one and have consistently proven the doubters wrong. Can they keep this magical season alive? Game One, tonight, 7:30pm.

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