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Wizards, Blazers may finally advance in NBA playoffs

Ariza, Wizards near first playoff series win in nine years
Ariza, Wizards near first playoff series win in nine years
Photo by Win McNamee

The NBA playoffs still have teams other than the Los Angeles Clippers involved. However, the Washington Wizards and Portland Trail Blazers are strangers to the NBA playoffs, at least beyond the first round. But for the first time in years, both the Wizards and Blazers may take the next step, as they found themselves one win away after key Game 4 wins at home on April 27.

After both the Wizards and Blazers swept the Chicago Bulls and Houston Rockets on the road, they promptly lost brutal Game 3's at home on April 25. But Washington and Portland bounced back, although the Wizards had an easier time beating the Bulls by 98-89 than the Blazers did in a 123-120 overtime thriller over the Rockets.

Despite losing Nene to a suspension, the Wizards jumped over the Bulls from the start. 30 points and six three-pointers from Trevor Ariza fueled Washington, as Chicago only made four three's by itself. The Wizards started Game 4 on a 14-0 run and never looked back, with the Bulls only making the final score close when it was too late.

It may be too late for the Bulls as a whole in these NBA playoffs, as home court for Game 5 may not help them. Should the Wizards get one more win in Chicago or Washington, they will reach the second round for the first time since 2005 -- when they beat the Bulls in six games. With the Indiana Pacers struggling against the Atlanta Hawks, the Wizards may have a real shot to go further.

Yet no NBA team has waited as long to advance in the playoffs as the Blazers, who have gone 14 years without winning a series. But at long last, there may be deliverance for the Blazers, after surviving a third overtime battle with the Rockets.

Four Blazers had over 20 points, led by LaMarcus Aldridge's 29. The Rockets had a 10-point halftime lead and an eight point lead with over eight minutes left, but couldn't hold on. In fact, Houston had to rally from a seven-point overtime deficit before falling short.

Like the Wizards, the Blazers are close to finally moving on -- and even see a path to threatening the top seeded San Antonio Spurs, if they survive the Dallas Mavericks. At the least, the NBA playoffs may see some new blood in the later rounds for once.

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