Though a playoff berth is all but out of the picture, the Portland Trail Blazers still have a chance for their first winning season since 2002-03.
The Trail Blazers look to bounce back from their most recent loss while trying to even the season series with the visiting Charlotte Bobcats on Saturday night.
In its first game since leading scorer Brandon Roy went down with a groin injury, Portland (38-35) lost 111-95 at Golden State on Thursday for its second defeat in three games.
Portland, 16-22 since Jan. 9 and seven games out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference with nine games remaining, is on the verge of missing the postseason for a fifth straight year. The Blazers, though, are still in position to post a winning record for the first time since going 50-32 and reaching the playoffs in 2002-03.
In order to salvage their once-promising season, though, Portland must play better than it did against Golden State, owner of the eighth and final playoff spot in the West.
On Thursday, the Blazers shot 40.2 percent for the game and were outscored 40-20 in a decisive third quarter while the Warriors made 18 of 20 free throws.
“If the eighth seed is this good, imagine how good the No. 1 or No. 2 seed is,” said Portland forward LaMarcus Aldridge, who had 17 points, six assists and five rebounds in his first game back after missing one with a sprained ankle. “So it shows us to be in that playoff race and to be in the playoffs, you’ve got to be a good team that executes down the stretch.”
Aldridge, who averages 17.7 points and 7.3 rebounds, could be expected to carry the scoring load with Roy out at least three more games. Aldridge had just seven points and one rebound in Portland’s 101-92 loss at Charlotte on Nov. 19 in the teams’ previous meeting this season. He did have 30 points in a victory over the Bobcats last season.
The Bobcats (27-45) improved to 2-1 on their four-game road trip with a 96-63 victory over Seattle on Friday night for their third win in four contests. Charlotte is five games out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with 10 games remaining.
“We keep playing together, keep getting better, it’s going to pay off in the long run,” said guard Raymond Felton, who had 23 points Friday. “We’re still trying (for the playoffs). That’s still our goal. It’s possible some other teams lose and we slip in there.
Charlotte, 8-28 on the road, looks to win three in a row away from home for the first time since Jan. 10-19, 2007.
Jason Richardson had 27 points Friday for the Bobcats, who outscored the Sonics 24-17 in the fourth quarter.
Richardson, who had 34 points in Charlotte’s 108-95 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday, is averaging 25.7 in his last 15 games. He had 24 points in the win over Portland in November.