When the Los Angeles Lakers resume the NBA season, they won’t have a ton to play for. Barring an extraordinary and unprecedented collapse, they should have the first seed in the Western Conference locked in, but not every team is so lucky.
The Portland Trail Blazers, for example, were 29-37 when the season was halted due to the threat of the coronavirus, 3.5 games back of the Memphis Grizzlies for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West. When teams begin play again on July 30, then, the Blazers will be fighting for the chance to, in all likelihood, move up a spot and face the Lakers in the first round.
Blazers star Damian Lillard was transcendent in his team’s most recent win against the Lakers to wrap up the month of January, dropping 48 points to help Portland get a much-needed victory. Still, the Blazers only won that by 8 points despite Lillard’s heroics, and lost their prior two matchups against Los Angeles by a combined 31 points. They have never, at any point, looked like they had answers for Lakers stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis beyond a ridiculous explosion from Lillard just allowing them to outscore the purple and gold.
Nevertheless, Lillard is confident his Blazers would have a chance in a series against the Lakers, as he openly admitted in a Q and A with Vanity Fair:
When the season shut down, the Trail Blazers were in ninth place; if you move up to eighth, you could play the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round. You want that?
Of course. I think we could beat them.