The Portland Trailblazers are playing phenomenal basketball. They have won 10 straight, and are riding some serios momentum coming off a powerhouse win in Oakland. They rank 7th in the league in points per game, 8th in rebounds per game, 9th in assists per game, and 10th in points allowed. Of the 5 to 6 tough, meaningful games they have played (depending on how you look at it), the Blazers only lost once, to Dwight Howard and the Houston Rocets. Clearly, they are exceeding everyone's expectations up to this point.
But what about the road ahead? How does the Blazers schedule change and how will that affect them?
Fans have been hearing talk about how the back to back versus Chicago and at Golden State would be the Blazers big test. After big wins in both games, we can safely assume that the test has been passed. But the commentators here at Blazersedge have reminded us that December will a tough month, and that the schedule only gets harder.
And indeed it does. The Blazers start December with a back-to-back in LA with the Lakers and then at home versus Indiana. They have a game off and then play OKC at home. Next is another back-to-back at home against the Utah Jazz and the Dallas Mavericks. After 2 games in 6 days they take a 4 game road trip which includes 4 games in 5 nights. After a games against the Clippers and Miami, the Blazers finish the month with back-to-back road games against New Orleans and OKC.
It doesn't get easier from there. January includes another 4 games in 5 nights, again on the road; only this time, the Blazers face San Antonio, Dallas (back-to-back #1), Houston, and OKC (back-to-back #2). Portland finishes January with a back-to-back at home versus Minnesota, and on the road at Golden State.
February finds the Blazers with 2 back-to-backs before the All-Star break; one on the road against Minnesota and then Indiana, one against OKC at home and then The Clippers in LA. After a week long rest (which will hopefully include a few Blazer All-Stars) The Blazers finish the month relatively easy, playing San Antonio, Utah, Minnesota, Denver, and Brooklyn. Judging those teams as they stand now, we can assume that these games should be at least somewhat winnable.
March will be the Blazers home stretch, and arguably their toughest portion of the schedule. The month contains two 5 game road trips, with each road trip including at least one back to back. The first is a Western Conference road trip, in which the Blazers take on Dallas, Houston, Memphis and San Antonio in a back-to-back, and New Orleans. The second is an Eastern Conference tour, with games at Charlotte, Miami and Orlando in a back-to-back, and Atlanta and Chicago in a back-to-back.
By this time late in the season, we can assume that teams will be making adjustment and playing to the Blazers weaknesses. With a season that contains 12 back-to-backs, 11 of which contain teams that are currently above .500, anything is possible. If the Blazers win half of these games, they should be just fine. But it remains to be seen whether the red-hot shooting and comeback victories will keep the Blazers afloat in the long run. If it can, then I am all for it. But I must admit I have my doubts as to whether this team will be able to hold up this season, or whether the wear and tear will cause them to fall apart.
At this point, if we assume the Blazers do not fall chance to injuries, they look like a battle ready team. But if/when key players start to go down, will Portland have it in them to keep going, to keep contending? Last night against Golden State says yes. But what happens when instead of Wesley or Mo Willy it's Robin Lopez or LaMarcus? I really hate to be the one to bring up injuries, but they are a reality.
Even if we exclude injuries, a breakdown is still possible. The key to this season will be how the Blazers make adjustments. Will they be the second half team, coming back from down night after night to be victorious? Or will their hot start be all for naught, similar to last season, when the Blazers started hot before succumbing to fatigue? Again, I am a huge fan just like any other and I am very excited for the success thus far. But this schedule does not get any easier, and I am skeptical, yet hopeful, as to whether the Blazers can pull through.
Best case scenario, this team never loses again. 80-2. But as Portland fans have come to learn over the years, this team rarely gets the best case scenario. Here's hoping this is the year.