The Portland Trail Blazers weren't underdogs to start the NBA playoffs against the Houston Rockets. While the Blazers were facing a Rockets team with the likes of Dwight Howard and James Harden, their surprise 54-win regular season suggested they could do something in these playoffs. Yet that has been easier said than done for the Blazers in the last 14 years, although it can now finally be done on April 30.
With a 3-1 series lead, Portland can win its first NBA playoff series since 2000 by winning a third straight game at Houston. But given how close the series has actually been due to three overtime games -- which still isn't the most in this postseason thanks to Memphis and Oklahoma City -- there may still be some drama left in this match-up.
The Rockets will need more clutch play than they've gotten from Howard and Harden, while needing some way to stop LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard. These Blazers stars have raised hopes that they could have a Western Conference contender for years to come, but they need to take one big baby step first.
Portland has been cursed ever since Game 7 of the 2000 Western Conference finals, when it was 10 minutes away from completing a 3-1 comeback over the Los Angeles Lakers. But instead, the Blazers blew a 15-point lead, allowed the Lakers to begin their dynasty and haven't gotten past the first round since.
The Blazers haven't had a team capable of doing as much as the 1999-2000 squad, at least perhaps until right now. With the chance to put the Rockets away early and with the No. 1 seeded San Antonio Spurs struggling against the Dallas Mavericks, there's a chance the Blazers could be fully rested with home court in the next round.
Since the NBA playoffs have been chaotic and top heavy in the West, Portland may have as much of a shot at the finals as any. This is technically a pipe dream for a team that has the longest postseason drought in the league today. But with one more win in these next three games, the Blazers will finally be allowed to dream bigger.
The accompanying list details all the NBA playoff demons of the last 14 years that Portland can erase very soon.