Portland’s postseason run is the longest current one in the NBA, and is second in the major pro leagues behind the NHL’s St. Louis Blues (24).
The Trail Blazers need one more playoff appearance to match the NBA record established from 1950-71 by the Syracuse Nationals, who later became the Philadelphia 76ers.
Portland played with urgency Thursday, winning 88-82 at Philadelphia for its ninth victory in 12 games.
The win moved Portland into a tie for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference with seven games to play. Only two postseason spots remain in the West, and Houston, Utah and Denver are also competing for them.
“We’re still climbing uphill,” said Portland coach Maurice Cheeks, whose team plays the defending NBA champion San Antonio Spurs and the Los Angeles Lakers two more times each. “When you are trying to get into that eighth slot, you can’t afford to let games slip away. That’s the thing that we keep talking about and harping on—we can’t afford to let games slip away.”
Darius Miles, acquired from Cleveland in a midseason deal, is averaging 24.5 points on 67 percent (20-for-30) shooting in the last two games. He shot 7-for-13 Thursday, and finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds.
Theo Ratliff, leading the league with 5.4 blocks per game, added 14 points, six rebounds and six blocked shots. The 6-foot-10 forward has averaged 6.0 blocks over the last four games.
“His presence has been huge for us,” Cheeks said. “He gives us a big presence in the middle that we didn’t have before.”
The Blazers could have used him Nov. 15, when they were outscored 40-28 in the paint in a 101-79 loss at New Orleans. Ratliff was acquired from Atlanta on Feb. 9 in the deal for Rasheed Wallace.
Portland has won six of its last seven home games.
The Hornets haven’t won on the road since an 89-75 victory over Indiana on Feb. 17. They’ve dropped 10 in a row away from New Orleans Arena, including an 89-76 defeat at Utah on Wednesday.
The Hornets have lost four in a row overall and are in a three-way tie for fourth in the East with a 37-38 record.
It’s the first time the Hornets have had a losing record since moving to New Orleans from Charlotte before last season.
“It seems that when you’re struggling, things don’t always go your way,” Hornets coach Tim Floyd said.
The Hornets are 0-2 on a five-game road trip, which also includes stops at Seattle and Sacramento.
New Orleans has lost seven of the last nine meetings with the Blazers and is 4-11 all-time at Portland.
STANDINGS (through April 1): Hornets - 3rd place (tied), 18 GB, Central Division. Trail Blazers - 3rd place, 13 GB, Pacific Division.
PROBABLE STARTERS: Hornets - F George Lynch, F P.J. Brown, C Jamaal Magloire, G Shammond Williams, G David Wesley. Trail Blazers - F Miles, F Zach Randolph, C Ratliff, G Damon Stoudamire, G Derek Anderson.
TEAM LEADERS: Hornets - Davis, 23.0 ppg and 7.6 apg; Magloire, 10.2 rpg. Trail Blazers - Randolph, 20.1 ppg and 10.6 rpg; Stoudamire, 6.2 apg.
SEASON SERIES: Hornets, 1-0.
LAST MEETING: Nov. 15; Hornets, 101-79. At New Orleans, the Hornets shot 50 percent and got 23 points and eight assists from Davis. Stoudamire led Portland with 14 points and seven assists.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Hornets - 13-23 on the road; Trail Blazers - 24-13 at home.