And down the stretch they come

The Trail Blazers have three games left in the "regular" season. And it feels like every game is a playoff game at this point. They're on the road tonight in Utah, and tomorrow night in Phoenix. Then they get two days off, to lick their wounds, before a Sunday season finale at home against Denver.

It's a brutal last trio of contests. Those opponents are 1-2-4 in the Western Conference. The Blazers are in the no. 5 spot at the moment, hut only tenuously.

It's looking good for Portland to miss the hideous "play-in tournament," inflicted on teams in seventh place and below, but avoiding that ordeal is still not a sure thing. Barring a three-way tie for sixth place, in which case things get mighty tricky, the Blazers need two more wins to be sure they don't have to "play in." 

And Portland is the best team that their remaining oppponents have left. Besides the Blazers, Utah faces Oklahoma and Sacramento; Phoenix has two games with the Spurs; and Denver has Minnesota and Detroit. Yuck.

Phoenix and Utah are still jostling with each other for the top spot in the Western Conference, and so they still have something to play for. Phoenix leads Utah by 2 games, with 3 to go. The Suns have the tiebreaker between them.

But by Sunday, the Nuggets may not care whether they win their last game. Maybe they'll take it easy, and a charged-up Portland team can pull off a nice win for their home fans. 

We'll certainly see, but at this point it's still one day at a time. Beat the Jazz in Salt Lake, and Portland will be looking mighty good.