There was a point in the 2010-2011 season where the high water mark for the Portland Trail Blazers came in the form of a hand gesture. The "Three Goggles" meme created by better-personality-than-player Patty Mills offered the briefest respite from yet another season of dreadful injuries and the dull stagnation of a franchise stripped of momentum, unceremoniously stalled on the wayside while rival teams (namely their onetime geographic rivals the Oklahoma City Thunder) passed them by. The team's lofty expectations came tumbling to earth with the blunt realization that Brandon Roy's knees were as durable as a cheap piñata and Greg Oden is doomed to spend more time in a suit (or hospital gown) than in a jersey, and another Portland season was left to wither under the cursed cloud of injuries.
By the halfway point of the season the Blazers' playoff chances were a toss-up, as the ligament deficient team meekly possessed an outsider's chance of clinging to the final post-season birth. But hey, those "Three Goggles"
Yet just as the Blazers were settling into the comforts of mediocrity, the team swindled Gerald Wallace from the Charlotte Bobcats in the waning hours of the NBA trade deadline. The arrival of Wallace ignited Portland and helped the team glide through a difficult schedule in the waning weeks of the season. With their 102-89 victory over Memphis on Tuesday, the Blazers captured the sixth seed in the Western Conference and finished the season stronger than they've been in recent memory.
Due to the limitations of us weekly print media dinosaurs, the Blazers' playoff opponents won't be known until after this paper hits the streets. But, in classic Mercury tradition, we can wildly speculate about what team the Blazers will meet in postseason with little regard to reason or fact. Oh, oh, let's do that!
Oklahoma City Thunder: This is the absolute worst-case scenario for Portland. A series against the Thunder will be over within a week, plus the national media will fill our television sets with split screen images of Kevin Durant smothering Portland's dreams while a sad looking Greg Oden clumsily paws at the tears streaking his face as he sullenly remains perched like a gargoyle on the Blazers' bench. This series would be the basketball equivalent of your ex leaving you for someone better looking, then being forced to watch their sex tape.
Los Angeles Lakers: A slightly better, and more plausible, scenario. The Lakers are stumbling into the postseason, hardly resembling a team with a fistful of championship rings. Yet it's hard to believe anyone outside of fans blinded by their vehement hatred for Kobe Bryant would actually want Portland to tussle with the two-time defending champions. Then again, following the news that Andrew Bynum hyperextended his knee, the Lakers are more vulnerable than they have been in years. Unless of course this is all an elaborate trap drawn up by their Machiavellian coach Phil Jackson, who harnesses the power of triangles much like the dark forces of the occult.
Dallas Mavericks: The most likely matchup is also the most favorable option for Portland. The Blazers and Mavericks split their four games this season, but the two teams are mirror images of each other (crafty veteran point guard, soft-shooting power forwards, owners with more money than God) and the Mavs have a dubious lengthy history of failing to live up to their regular season potential. Factor in the ball of hustle that is Wallace and all of a sudden the Blazers are the nightmare opponent for the Mavs, a team definitely capable of escaping unscathed from the opening round—something Portland hasn't done in well over a decade.