Before the season started, assistant Trail Blazers coach Kaleb Canales devised a team motto. It was '15 16.'
PORTLAND — Before the season started, assistant Trail Blazers coach Kaleb Canales devised a team motto. It was "15 16."
The 15 was for the players that make up the Blazers. The 16 was for the teams that make the playoffs. The message was that Portland would get to the postseason only if all 15 played as a team.
The Blazers did.
Now, not satisfied with simply making the playoffs, the Blazers are jockeying for homecourt advantage.
With four games left, the Blazers are in a three-way tie for third place in the Western Conference, along with the San Antonio Spurs and the Houston Rockets. All three have 50-28 records.
The Blazers, because of their 95-83 victory over San Antonio on Wednesday night, hold the tiebreaker over the Spurs should the two teams finish with the same record.
Portland is two-and-a-half games back of leader Denver in the West's Northwest Division.
It is the first time the Blazers have been to the playoffs since the 2002-03 season. The team's six-year postseason drought was the longest active streak in the NBA.
Portland has won 50 games this season, also for the first time since 2002-03.
The final push begins Friday when the Blazers host the Los Angeles Lakers, who are far atop the West with a 62-16 record.
The last time the Lakers came to Portland they lost 111-94. The game was notable because of a scary injury to swingman Rudy Fernandez, who was taken off the court by stretcher after a hard foul by Trevor Ariza.
The Blazers have defeated the Lakers at the Rose Garden seven straight times. But the Lakers have a 2-1 advantage in the series with Portland this season, thanks to a pair of victories at the Staples Center.
After the Lakers, the Blazers visit the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday night, then wrap up the regular season at home with games against Oklahoma City on Monday and Denver for the finale on Wednesday.
The remaining schedule could be advantageous for the Blazers, who are 31-7 at home this season. On the downside, it's four games in six days.
The NBA playoffs get under way April 18-19.
Speaking of the Lakers
Lakers coach Phil Jackson won't accompany his team to Portland on Friday because of pain in his lower right leg.
Assistant Kurt Rambis will replace the 63-year-old Hall of Famer.
Jackson will rejoin the team for practice on Saturday and isn't expected to miss any more games.
The pain and swelling in Jackson's leg is caused by plantar fasciitis.
Trail Blazers' first-round playoff games that aren't on national television will be broadcast on Portland's KGW News Channel 8, the team says.
"We know our fans have waited a long time for this, and wanted assurance that the playoffs reached as wide a viewing audience as possible. We thank KGW, and encourage Trail Blazers fans to tune in, show their support and enjoy the games." Trail Blazers President Larry Miller said.
This season, Comcast SportsNet Northwest has been broadcasting all the Blazers games that aren't on a national network or KGW. That has been a contentious problem for fans who choose satellite television over cable, or who live in areas where Comcast is not available.