With 16 games left in the regular season, and the third easiest strength of schedule among playoff teams in the Western Conference, the Portland Trailblazers have a legitimate shot at making a top-three seed in the West.
It all starts on Tuesday night with a game against the seven-seed Los Angeles Clippers.
Despite the massive trades and unloading of capable players at the NBA Trade Deadline, the Clippers have actually...gotten better since then? LA has rid of Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley, Boban Marjanovic, Mike Muscala and Mike Scott, yet they still hold a 38-29 record and are slated to make the playoffs. What once looked like a cake walk for the Blazers has now turned into a dangerous game that can not be overlooked.
Add to that the fact that both Evan Turner (knee) and Rodney Hood (hip) are questionable to play, and the Blazers face a tough challenge that kicks off a three-game road trip.
The Blazers have had two off-days since Saturday's win 127-120 win over the Phoenix Suns, and many of the starters were able to sit for the 4th quarter of that game after a 29-point lead was built. Rest will not be an issue.
Still, Portland fans should be warned against marking this game down as a W just yet. The Clippers have proved to be a feisty team, led by all-star Lou Williams who is averaging 20.2 points per game on 42.4 percent shooting. They also have Montrez Harrell down low who has been holding court, and defensive pest Patrick Beverly available to get under the skin of Portland's guards.
The Clippers have won four straight, and seven of their last 10 games. The Blazers are 6-3 since the All-Star Break, with wins over three of the top 10 teams in the NBA.
Portland will look to keep climbing the Western Conference Standings, while Los Angeles just looks to stay in the playoff picture. Expect these two teams to scrap until the final whistle.