NBA insiders believe Blazers are a legitimate threat to upset Lakers
If the Portland Trail Blazers secure the eighth spot in the Western Conference standings over the Memphis Grizzlies, league insiders believe they can upset the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the 2020 playoffs, per Marc Stein of the New York Times.
Blazers forwards Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins are back in the lineup for the first time all season. As a result, some pundits think Portland can give LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the Lakers a run for their money should the Blazers and Lakers meet in the first round:
“I spoke to representatives from two teams, from would-be sleepers in each conference, and received completely different forecasts about the impact of having just three weeks of full-speed practices before stuffing eight games into a 16-day window before the playoffs.
“One said that the compact comeback could be a true equalizer. Example: Some league insiders see Portland as a threat to upset the Lakers in a first-round series after welcoming back its previously ailing frontcourt pair of Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins. The other executive, by contrast, described the eight seeding games all teams must play before the postseason as a lengthy runway that will afford the Lakers, the Bucks and the Clippers time to regain their March form.”
While the Lakers have the best record in the West and one of the top defenses in the league, they could have trouble stopping the Blazers, who have four dynamic scorers in Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Carmelo Anthony and Nurkic.
So far, the Blazers have gone 1-1 in the seeding games. As of this writing, they are in 10th place in the Western Conference standings and 2.5 games back of the Grizzlies for the eighth and final playoff spot.