tl;dr - Blazers are off to a great start this year; tonight' loss to the 76ers doesn't matter in the grand scheme. This year' team will likely be a 20+ win improvement over last season, and likely will be one of the top 5 regular seasons in Blazers franchise history(potentially even higher). Furthermore, the Blazers have a good chance of making some substantial noise in the playoffs (comparing this team with past teams in similar situations) and currently have a greater than 10% chance of winning the NBA Championship.
With the loss tonight vs the Philadelphia 76ers, the Blazers are now 26-8.
After starting the season absolutely dominating the Eastern Conference 7-0, the Blazers have had a couple of slip-ups, going 5-2 in their next 7 games vs the Eastern Conference. Despite these 'slip-ups,' the Blazers are still an amazing 12-2 vs the Eastern Conference.
No one likes to lose, especially at home to a 'bad' Eastern conference team; but how many of us were projecting the Blazers with 26 wins at this point in the season? No one.
The Blazers are just 7 wins away from having the same win total as we did all of last season. Clearly, the Blazers are off to one of their greatest starts in franchise history. Take a look at these stats:
"Portland has won at least 12 games in consecutive months for only the second time in team history (November/December, 1990)."
"The Trail Blazers have won 25 games before the end of December for the first time since the 1990-91 season (27 wins)."
For some other parallels with the 1990-91 team: The Night Before the Mavericks
Sadly, the 76ers beat the Blazers tonight, and ended a streak that was really cool: the Blazers had been 25-0 when they held their opponents to less than 49.5% shooting. But, it happens; can't expect the team to win every game. Loses happen to all teams; the 76ers have wins against the Blazers, the Miami Heat, Houston Rockets, Denver Nuggets, Chicago Bulls(with Rose) and LA Lakers (to name a few).
Defense(holding our opponents under 49.5% from the field) is still the key to winning games, as we can count on the high-powered Blazers offense to carry us the rest of the way(tonight notwithstanding). The Blazers are now:
- 25-1 when they hold their opponents to less than 49.5%
- 1-7 when their opponent shoots better than 49.5% from the field
A loss to the 76ers doesn't change anything.
The Blazers are still having one of the best starts in franchise history. The Blazers are still 4 games ahead of the 4th place team in the West, and 9.5 games ahead of the 9th place team in the West.
So, where do you think this regular season will rank in franchise history? How do you think they'll fare in the playoffs?
Let's take a look.
The Blazers have had 5 regular seasons with at least 55 wins.
1990-91: 63-19 (Lost to LA Lakers in Western Conference Finals)
1999-00: 59-23 (Lost to LA Lakers in Western Conference Finals)
1989-90: 59-23 (Lost to Detroit Pistons in NBA Finals)
1977-78: 58-24 **
1991-92: 57-25 (Lost to Chicago Bulls in NBA Finals)
** The Blazers were 50-10, and then Bill Walton went down. We finished the regular season just 8-14 (7 of the last 10 regular season games were double digit losses), and then lost 4-2 to the Seattle Supersonics
The Blazers have had an additional 6 seasons with at least 50 wins.
All 6 of these seasons the Blazers were bounced in the first round.
For reference, this is the Blazers 44th season in the NBA. So, in 32 seasons the Blazers didn't win 50 games.
Thus far, the Blazers have won 76.5% of their games.
It seems pretty safe to say that this season is going to be one of the top 10 regular seasons in franchise history, as Blazers would need to just be a .500 team the rest of the regular season. Simply going 24-24 the rest of the way gets the Blazers 50 wins.
To have a 20 win improvement over last year, the Blazers would need to get 53 wins, or go 27-21 the rest of the way(win 56.25% of the remaining regular season games).
To be a top 5 regular season in franchise history, the Blazers would need to get 57 wins, or go 31-17 the rest of the way(win 64.5% of the remaining regular season games).
To be one of the top 2 regular seasons in franchise history, the Blazers would need to get 60 wins, or go 34-14 the rest of the way(win 70.8% of the remaining regular season games).
To be the greatest regular season in franchise history, the Blazers would need to get 64 wins, or go 38-10 the rest of the way(win 79.1% of the remaining regular season games).
So, where do you think this regular season will rank? Think the Blazers can play .500 ball the rest of the way? Think the Blazers can have a 20 win improvement over last year? Think the Blazers can get 60 wins for the second time in franchise history?
Mental health break: The Palace now has a Queen.
Mariah Carey' national debut, Game 1 of the 1990 NBA Finals between the Detroit Pistons and the Portland Trailblazers:
Nice to see you on the other side. We've taken a look at this year' regular season, comparing it with the 5 current best regular seasons in franchise history, so lets now take a look at our playoff chances.
Clearly, for most people, the way you define a successful season is based largely on how the team performs in the playoffs. While I accept this, I do believe that the journey of the regular season is an integral part of the fan experience.
The losses are what give meaning to the wins. It's the lack of playoffs in bad years which makes the years with playoffs that much more meaningful.
Roughly half the teams every year don't make the playoffs. Only one in 15 teams wins the conference each year. So, if all things were equal (which they're not, see: SA Spurs/LA Lakers), you would expect the Blazers to win the Western Conference once every 15 years, and be in the Western Conference Finals twice every 15 years.
Well, we've made the Western Conference Finals twice in the past 15 years.
Winning the Western Conference Finals, and representing the West in the NBA Finals, is a nice goal; but for almost every team, this isn't even a likely goal.
In the past 15 seasons, 4 Western conference teams haven't made it to the Western Conference Finals. In fact, Golden State hasn't made it to the Western Conference Finals since 1976. The Denver Nuggets and LA Clippers have never won the Western Conference Finals. Ever.
Besides the 3 teams from Texas(state tax free) and the LA Lakers, no Western Conference team has won an NBA Championship since the Seattle Supersonics(1979, also state tax free) and the Blazers(1977).
So again, besides the teams with the perk of not requiring their players to pay state tax(free agent benefit), the only Western Conference team to win a Championship since the Blazers did in 1977 is the LA Lakers.
However, remember that the Blazers have had an amazing amount of playoff success when they've won at least 55 games in the regular season. With the exception of the year Walton got hurt, the Blazers are a perfect 4 of 4 in making the Western Conference Finals, and have made the NBA Finals half of those times.
Do we have reason to believe that the Blazers will have similar success this year in the playoffs? Lets take a closer look at the relative offensive/defensive ratings for the best 5 regular seasons, and this season.
This season has a clear difference between those top 5 seasons.
|Relative Off Rtg||Relative Def Rtg|
(side note: a positive relative offensive rating is good, and a negative relative defensive rating is good.)
As you can see, the Blazers were much more balanced in those other 5 years, having a better than average offensive and defensive rating.
This year, the Blazers have a much higher relative offensive rating than any of those other Blazer teams, but currently has a below average relative defensive rating. This should surprise no one that has been watching the games.
Basketball reference has a great post about winning championships, generating a best fit formula (based off previous years) for the probability a team will win a Championship based off their relative offensive/defensive ratings:
Looking at the formula(using all seasons since the NBA/ABA merged) the probability to win a championship is:
p( C) ~ 1 / (1 + EXP (5.5573404 – (0.5306148 * Offense) + (0.6129486 * Defense)))
They have a nice chart with the probabilities of winning a championship when a team has an average offense(relative offensive rating of 0) and when a team has an average defense(relative defensive rating of 0).
Once again, so far this season, our relative offensive rating is +9.0 and our relative defensive rating is +2.3
So, if we were to tighten up our relative defensive rating to league average, but still keep our +9.0 relative offensive rating, we would be expected to win the NBA Championship 31.4% of the time.
Plugging in the relative offensive/defensive ratings from the best 5 regular seasons, along with this year, the probabilities of winning the NBA Championship are:
We all know that the odds of winning a Championship will greatly improve if we can improve our relative defensive rating. That said, currently having a 10% chance of winning an NBA Championship is exciting.
How awesome is it going to be when Mike Breen screams 'BANG!' in this years playoffs, following a made Blazer 3 pointer?
Mental health break: The Miracle Minute.
Where do you think this Blazer team' regular season will rank in franchise history?
How far do you think the Blazers will go in the playoffs?
Remember, if you are predicting the Blazers will win 53 or more games(27-21 or better the rest of the way), you are predicting the Blazers will have at least a 20 win improvement over last year.
There have been 12 NBA teams who have won at least 52 games, with a 20+ win improvement over the previous year:
- All 12 won their first round series (advancing to the Conference Semi-Finals)
- 10 of 12 won their second round series (advancing to the Conference Finals)
- 4 of 12 won their Conference Finals (advancing to the NBA Finals)
- 2 of 12 won the Championship
Lastly, I wanted to respond to cloud razor's comment in the OKC Thunder final thread.
He basically noted that there seem to be a good deal of fans talking about the Blazers defense, but how there isn't any useful data/or notable analysis to go along with it. Most comments about the Blazers defense seem to revolve around "so and so is lazy" or "they just aren't putting enough effort into it."
I don't consider myself fluent in the Blazers offensive and defensive schemes. The things I can pick out when I'm watching us on defense: 1) are we going under/over the pick for certain players 2) are we doubling anyone 3) I can see when the rotation fails(when someone's head isn't on the swivle) to cover when someone else leaves their man to provide help.
Most everything else remains a mystery to me. However, there are a number of really informative youtube clips provided by the trailblazers account which talk about the basics of our defense. I wanted to end this post, with a video about 'The Nail' and it's importance in both the Blazers offensive and defensive schemes.