The Portland Trail Blazers are having a pretty good season. They started the year hot, going 10-3 to start the season, at one point grabbing the first spot in the Western Conference. Portland has had some ups and downs, but with some new additions in Rodney Hood and Enes Kanter, they’re looking good as they try to grab homecourt advantage in the playoffs.
But the NBA Finals? I’m not sure that’s Portland’s destiny, and I cover this team for a living for NBC Sports Northwest.
Apparently that sentiment is not shared by TNT’s Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith. Speaking during halftime of Portland’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday, Smith said he thought thought Portland was destined for the 2019 Western Conference Finals.
Then Barkley went a step further and said he thought the Blazers were going to the NBA Finals.
The Blazers have definitely gotten deeper, and their roles are well-defined. CJ McCollum has adapted to a different role this season, playing more with Damian Lillard rather than the staggering he saw in seasons past. Still, Portland is a middling team in terms of defensive rating and we still have yet to see if their fatal flaw — Lillard and McCollum getting trapped to death — can be solved in the postseason.
It’d be incredible for the city of Portland if the Trail Blazers made the NBA Finals, but the default setting for fans here in the Northwest is of extreme optimism combined with existential dread. At this point, Kenny and Chuck appear to have the sunniest opinion of this team out of anyone.
The Blazers lost to the Thunder in OT, 129-121, in an absolute train wreck of a game by the officials in the final minutes.