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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on April 14, 2010 1:13 AM. The previous post in this blog was Burnside-Couch "couplet" -- traffic from hell. The next post in this blog is Portland gets away with rogue tax abatements. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Blazer playoff picture

I'm always game for trying to figure out the Blazers' playoff matchup scenarios toward the end of the season, even though it's some mind-boggling stuff. Last year, the NBA's official rules weren't clear enough for me to get it all straight, but doggone it, I'm going to try again.

We know for sure that the Blazers are going to play one of three teams: Dallas, Phoenix, or Utah. Of the three, Utah is the opponent that Blazer fans least want to see. Which one will they get?

It depends on what happens tonight, and a lot is riding on tonight's contest of Phoenix at Utah (7:30). If Utah loses that game, the Blazers will play either Phoenix or Dallas. If Utah wins that game, the Blazers will play Utah unless the Blazers win their home game against Golden State (7:30) and San Antonio wins at Dallas (5:00). Utah's home record this season is 32-8, and they've won 2 out of 3 over Phoenix so far, and so if the Blazers are going to avoid Utah, a San Antonio win on the road in the first game would be nice.

Unless either Phoenix or San Antonio wins on the road, Portland gets Utah in the first round, no matter what happens in tonight's Blazer game.

And now, the mind-numbing detailed analysis. As best I can tell, the Blazers are probably going to finish 6th in Western Conference. If they lose at home to Golden State tonight and San Antonio wins in Dallas, the Spurs are 6th and the Blazers 7th; otherwise, the Blazers are 6th. Portland owns the tiebreaker with San Antonio, having beaten the Spurs in the regular season, 3 games to 0. If the Blazers finish with the 6th seed, they play the 3d seed. If the Blazers finish with the 7th seed, they play the 2nd seed.

Too bad there's no way the Blazers will meet the Spurs in the first round; they also won't play the Lakers or Oklahoma City, who will face off against each other in that round. Denver is also out of the Portland picture; they continued their swoon last night, finishing their season at 53-29. Denver will be 4th or 5th, and thus won't see the Blazers except in the conference finals (which seems fairly unlikely).

With three relevant games on tap, you math majors out there can see that there are eight possible combinations of game outcomes tonight, and we'll try to identify the Blazers' first-round matchups under each one. The home teams in tonight's games are identified in bold letters.

1. Blazers win, San Antonio beats Dallas, Utah beats Phoenix: Blazers tie San Antonio in record (51-31), but get the 6th seed due to the tiebreaker; Dallas and Utah tie for 2nd in record (54-28). Here's where the NBA's crazy, arcane tiebreaker rules kick in. Both Dallas and Utah will have won their divisions, and so the tiebreaker goes to the team with the better record in head-to-head competition. Utah won the season series with Dallas, 2 games to 1; therefore, Utah is second and Dallas 3rd. Blazers play Dallas.

2. Blazers win, San Antonio beats Dallas, Phoenix beats Utah: Blazers tie San Antonio in record, but get the 6th seed due to the tiebreaker; Dallas and Phoenix tie for 2nd in record, with Dallas winning that tiebreaker because it won its division and Phoenix didn't. Blazers play Phoenix.

3. Blazers win, Dallas beats San Antonio, Utah beats Phoenix: Blazers finish 6th, a game ahead of San Antonio; Dallas finishes 2d and Utah 3rd. Blazers play Utah.

4. Blazers win, Dallas beats San Antonio, Phoenix beats Utah: Blazers finish 6th, a game ahead of San Antonio; Dallas finishes 2d and Phoenix 3rd. Blazers play Phoenix.

5. Blazers lose, San Antonio beats Dallas, Utah beats Phoenix: Blazers finish 7th; they play the 2nd place team, but is that Dallas or Utah, who finish tied? As noted in scenario 1 above, Utah finishes 2nd and Dallas 3rd because Utah won the head-to-head series between those two teams. Blazers play Utah.

6. Blazers lose, San Antonio beats Dallas, Phoenix beats Utah:Blazers finish 7th; Dallas and Phoenix tie for 2nd in record, with Dallas winning that tiebreaker because it won its division and Phoenix didn't. Blazers play Dallas.

7. Blazers lose, Dallas beats San Antonio, Utah beats Phoenix: Blazers tie San Antonio in record, but get the 6th seed due to the tiebreaker; Utah finishes 3rd. Blazers play Utah.

8. Blazers lose, Dallas beats San Antonio, Phoenix beats Utah: Blazers tie San Antonio in record, but get the 6th seed due to the tiebreaker; Phoenix finishes 3rd. Blazers play Phoenix.

If you consider all eight of the outcomes equally probable, the Blazers have a 37.5% chance of playing Phoenix, a 37.5% chance of playing Utah, and a 25% chance of playing Dallas. If the Blazers win, they have a 50% chance of playing Phoenix, a 25% chance of playing Dallas, and a 25% chance of playing Utah. If the Blazers lose, the chances of playing Utah go up to 50%, and the chances of playing Phoenix or Dallas drop to 25% each. (Of course, by game time in Portland, the San Antonio-Dallas final score should be known; if San Antonio has won, Blazer fans will know early on that a Blazer win will avoid Utah.)

Interestingly, it appears that Denver will finish in a tie for 4th place no matter what happens, and thus the tiebreaker on that one (against either Phoenix or Utah) will determine only home-court advantage in the first round.

I think.

Comments (2)

I wonder whom Utah would rather play among Portland, Phoenix, and Denver.

Denver - on a losing roll, an acting head coach, a losing road record, and Kenyon Martin running on bad knees - Phoenix is on a roll, and Portland may be a better team without B-Roy.


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