Can we now finally stop calling the Portland Trail Blazers underdogs and start calling them for what they really are, Title Contenders?
That is what NBA pundits should now brand the Blazers after lighting up the Houston Rockets in six games to reach the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2000, when Scottie Pippen entered winning time to send John Stockton and the Utah Jazz home in five games.
With the Blazers facing a Game 7 against the Rockets in the Toyota Center in Sunday, Portland put on one of the best displays of teamwork ever seen in what is turning out to be the best first-round in NBA history. LaMarcus Aldridge, who some are begging to peg as the greatest Blazer of all time, matched Rockets center Dwight Howard basket for basket. Damian Lillard dominated the Rockets’ point guards, and Nicholas Batum, Wesley Matthews and Robin Lopez simply overwhelmed the Rockets’ supporting cast.
Maybe now we can all stop wondering if the Blazers belong in the conversation of Western Conference contenders. Portland has the star power, the complementary players, and the bench to compete with the likes of the San Antonio Spurs and the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Blazers now head into the second round of the playoffs more confident than ever in their ability to knock off another team from Texas, whether it be the Spurs or the Dallas Mavericks. The Blazers proved that they can win in the Lone Star State, and the will be a tough matchup for either opponent.
Who knows? Maybe the Blazers can keep the good times rolling all the way to the NBA Finals.