Philadelphia (36-33) at Portland (39-29)

By NICOLINO DIBENEDETTO, STATS Writer Saturday, Mar 19, 2011 Tipoff: 10:00 pm EDT Sat Mar 19, 2011

The Portland Trail Blazers’ road to a playoff berth is about to get a lot tougher. The Philadelphia 76ers have their own playoff race to worry about.

The Trail Blazers and 76ers are both looking to improve their playoff positioning in their respective races when they meet at the Rose Garden on Saturday night.

Portland (39-29) is sixth in the Western Conference standings, 1 1/2 games behind Denver for fifth place and 3 1/2 ahead of ninth-place Utah.

The Trail Blazers have improved their postseason cause by winning six of eight, with three of the victories coming against teams with records under .500.

They capitalized on another struggling opponent, routing Cleveland 111-70 on Thursday. The victory was the most one-sided for Portland in over three years, and afforded the club a chance to rest its starters for much of the second half.

“That was a really, really good game for us,” guard Brandon Roy(notes) said. “We’ve got a lot of battles coming up and we needed a good game like that to come out and dominate early, and not have to fight so hard in the fourth quarter of the game.”

The Blazers are in for a series of stiff tests as they attempt to reach the playoffs for a third consecutive season. Of their 14 remaining regular season games, 11 are against opponents currently owning winning records, including two meetings each with league-leading San Antonio, Oklahoma City and the Los Angeles Lakers.

Portland visits Los Angeles on Sunday.

LaMarcus Aldridge(notes) should be well rested after playing just 28:34 against the Cavaliers, making 9 of 10 shots for 20 points while grabbing 11 rebounds, two nights after scoring 30 points in a 104-101 win over Dallas.

The forward-center leads Portland with 22.3 points per game while pulling down 8.8 boards. However, he’s averaging 16.3 points on 38.8 percent shooting over the last three home meetings with Philadelphia (36-33).

The Trail Blazers has dropped six of eight to the 76ers, including an 88-79 defeat Nov. 30. They’ve lost seven of the last 10 meetings at the Rose Garden.

The Sixers have 13 games left in a bid to make the postseason that would cap a stunning turnaround after finishing with 27 wins in 2009-10. They’re in strong position to qualify in the East, leading seventh-place New York by one-half game while holding a 7 1/2-game advantage on Charlotte in ninth.

“He brought in a new system and has held us all accountable,” forward Elton Brand(notes) said of coach Doug Collins.

Philadelphia is looking to conclude this five-game trip with a three-game winning streak after cruising to a 102-80 win over Sacramento on Friday.

Andre Iguodala(notes) had nine assists in that victory and leads the team with 6.5 per game, but he’ll sit out Saturday to rest his sore knee rather than play on back-to-back nights.

Brand scored 18 points in the last meeting with Portland, as the 76ers limited the Blazers to 37.0 percent from the field and 5-for-18 from 3-point range.

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Saturday, Mar 19