From underdog to favorite, Portland is playing with house money

4:14 AM ET

PORTLAND, Ore. — There are no asterisks in the NBA postseason — not for abbreviated seasons, and not for series wins over short-handed teams missing two All-Stars. Coaches and players sound this trope all the time: It’s so hard to win in the NBA. Hard to win a game, hard to win a series, hard to win a title.

So please excuse the Portland Trail Blazers if they see their 106-103 Game 6 closeout win over the Los Angeles Clippers at the Moda Center on Friday night not as a fluke born out of Chris Paul‘s fractured hand or Blake Griffin‘s aggravated quad injury, but as a logical extension of a season-long process. Over the course of six months, a team featuring one of the league’s youngest rosters and sporting a record of 11-20 on Christmas Day, will now be playing May basketball — something last season’s veteran squad didn’t, as it bowed out to Memphis in the first round of the 2015 postseason exactly one year ago to the

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