On January 11th 2015, The Portland Trail Blazers defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 106-94, becoming the first team in the NBA to reach 30 wins in the 2014-15 season. The 30-8 start was the third best in franchise history, trailing only the 77-78 and 90-91 teams, both of which went 30-5 out of the gate and both of which had title aspirations.
Even before this Blazers fans sensed that there was something special about this team. The previous year's success was certainly celebrated, but there was always an asterisk. What if the roster had overachieved? The odds-makers in Las Vegas had suggested this very thing before the season started, projecting Portland's win total at 49. Kevin Bradley, Sports Book Manager at bovada.lv told Blazer's Edge:
To get 50 or more wins again in the West is still a tall order. Since we opened the NBA Win Totals we have taken more bets on the under 49. Considering all the teams ahead of them in terms of odds to win the Western Conference do have higher win totals than them, the highest being the Thunder at 57.5 who are in a class the Blazers just are not in, we do not want to over-adjust based on one season where they may have overachieved.
These fears were dashed as the Blazers rattled off winning streaks of 9, 5, 5, 4 and 4 to start the season with wins against Oklahoma City (twice), Cleveland, Dallas, and San Antonio (twice). Meanwhile, 6 of the 8 losses came against high-quality opponents: Golden State, the L.A. Clippers, Memphis, Chicago, Houston, and Atlanta.
Confidence was sky high among the Moda Center faithful, but the players also understood that they had reached the next level. Said Damian Lillard poured in 17 fourth quarter points against the aforementioned Lakers, capping his evening with this memorable dunk in traffic...
...and this quote:
"It's a great accomplishment to have 30 wins in 38 games. We've just got to keep the same mentality that we've had and always remember that we are an elite team."
That elite start turned out critical to the Blazers' season, as it gave them a cushion they would eventually need to win the Northwest Division. 30-8 served as the season's high water mark, not only in the standings, but emotionally. All of Portland filled with hope when talking about the Blazers.
Hope should not be underestimated. Sports fans need it. Even if your team doesn't reach any real level of success, fandom thrives on the belief that it can happen. Blazer fans had that belief in spades through the midpoint of the season. It was a bright time.