The first batch of post All Star break power rankings have been released, and it appears that most of the pundits are quite bullish on the Portland Trail Blazers. After surpassing their projected win total of 26.5 at the break, the young Trail Blazers team now sits two games over .500 for the first time since early November and a legitimate chance at a playoff berth.
Jeremy Woo of SI.com lists the Blazers at No. 11 this week, also noting the resurgence of the Trail Blazers after a rough start to the season:
League Pass brethren, please, please go back and watch Damian Lillard decimate the Warriors. Even better: The entire team is clicking, they've become a chore to defend, and after falling nine games under .500, the Blazers are 14-3 since Jan. 10.
NBA.com's John Schuhman has the Blazers penciled in at No. 10, up two spots from No. 12:
Damian Lillard dropped 51 on the champs on Friday, Lillard and C.J. McCollom each went for 30-plus in Sunday's huge win over the Jazz, and the Blazers have averaged 120 points over their last four games. But they also have the league's third best defense over the last month, and only two of the 11 games in that stretch were against bottom-10 offenses. They play three this week, but also have another big game against the Rockets.
Over at CBSSports.com, Matt Moore has the Blazers all the up to no. 8, also up two spots from the previous week after a blow out win over the Golden State Warriors:
Great reminder this week: Never, ever, ever make Damian Lillard mad. His 51-performance vs. the Warriors was the stuff that people talked about for days afterward.
Rounding out the usual power rankings, Marc Stein of ESPN.com says Dame ain't nothing to mess with... basically. He has the Blazers slotted at no. 9, up four spots from his last release.
Hell hath no fury like a Dame scorned (by Western Conference coaches). So much for that 2-9 career record for All-Star snub Damian Lillard against Steph Curry that we were talking about last week. The conversation now has to be about how the Lillard-led Blazers just became the first of five teams to beat the mighty Warriors this season and follow that up with a win in their next game.
Meanwhile, Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don't Lie didn't find the Trail Blazers especially interesting this week. He kept the team out of the Top 15 Most Interesting Storyline Power Rankings (post-deadline edition). Apparently a snubbed non-All-Star scoring 51 points against a historically-great team, and blowing out said team by 32 points, isn't all that interesting. Nor is the now-high probability of a projected 26.5 win team making the playoffs. Somehow I can't help but think Lillard doesn't just add this to his endless stack of chips on his shoulder.
The Trail Blazers, currently sitting at 29-27, are 7th in the Western Conference a half game behind the Dallas Mavericks for 6th and a full game ahead of the Houston Rockets who sit in 8th. The Utah Jazz are a full game and a half behind and have ceded the season series to the Blazers 3-1 with their defeat last night.