Tonight is opening night in the NBA, but only a select few teams get to relish the spotlight; meaning the Portland Trail Blazers do not open their season until Wednesday night. They are traveling to sunny Phoenix to face the Suns at U.S. Airways Center and there are a lot of new faces on both teams. It is going to be extremely important for the Blazers to build on their preseason success and keep the momentum rolling downhill.
Fast Don’t Lie
Early season momentum is paramount in the NBA. The season is a long and grueling 82 games — if you get off on the wrong foot. If you start fast and get into cruise control, then guys are having fun and they aren’t even thinking about the offseason. Of the 16 teams that made the playoffs last season, 10 won on opening night (four of the other six lost to other playoff teams); so you can see that starting fast can pay off. To go even further, those same 16 teams won 60.6 percent of their first 10 games — you might say that “60 percent of the time … it works, every time”.
Last season Portland won on their opening night, but only went 5-5 over the span of their first 10 games. Obviously this is not the sole reason they did not make the playoffs. There were three playoff teams that started 5-5 (Warriors, Lakers and Bulls) and even three teams that started 4-6 (Nuggets, Rockets and Pacers) — so a slow start can definitely turn around; however, when your window of opportunity is small there is less room for error; that is the situation the Blazers find themselves in.
The Blazers will be battling for the No. 6 through 8 playoff spots most likely, so they can ill afford to start slow and squander a promising season. One major, or even minor, injury to a key piece of the puzzle and they could be in for another agonizing season in the Northwest. Good news is — despite not making the playoffs the last three seasons the Blazers still managed to finish 10th in the NBA in attendance last season; these Portlandians love them some basketball!
Just What the Doctor Ordered
As luck would have it the NBA gods deemed it fitting to provide the rebuilding Phoenix Suns as the Blazers first victim, err, opponent. There’s one win notched and the season is off to a beaming start. Now, if you take a look at their next nine opponents it looks rather opportunistic for the Blazers. After the Suns they play, in order: Denver, San Antonio, Houston, Sacramento (twice), Detroit, Phoenix, Boston and Toronto.
So, here’s how the first 10 games should pan out. Damian Lillard & Co. are going to get off to a very favorable start to the 2013-14 season. This season instead of 5-5, the Blazers will go 7-3 in their first 10 games — the losses will be to the Spurs, Rockets and Detroit. There is reason for hope this year up in the Northwest — no, it’s not that Seattle will get an expansion team soon — and it’s an excitement that hasn’t been around since Greg Oden was drafted. The Blazers are going to be good, they are going to surprise a lot of analysts who have bet against them, and they are making a trip back to the NBA promised land — the playoffs!
Opening Night Prediction: Trail Blazers 106, Suns 91
**Let me know what you think, positive or negative, on twitter @Chris_Reichert