As the Portland Trail Blazers finish off a five-game road trip tonight in the Big Apple, they look to improve on a mostly solid stretch. With wins in Memphis and Brooklyn, and an epic comeback in D.C., the team has a chance to win four out of five—the blowout loss to the upstart 76ers on Wednesday their only blemish. The national media has taken notice, as both ESPN and CBS Sports ranked them in the top 10 of their weekly polls, while Sports Illustrated has them just missing that mark.
ESPN ranked Portland 8th, up from 11th last week, noting that the team’s “Big Three” have been in sync as of late:
Damian Lillard, Jusuf Nurkic and CJ McCollum combined to score 89 points in Friday's two-point win against the Nets, their second-highest point total as teammates. All three scored at least 25 points, the first time three Trail Blazers players had scored 25 points in the same game since November 2012.
CBS Sports pegged the Blazers 7th, up from 9th last week, with Chris Barnewall applauding the team’s defensive improvement from a year ago:
Going across the coast is never easy for either conference, but Portland looks in control of its current East Coast swing. Unlike previous years, this season's Blazers team feels real thanks to their great defense.
Sports Illustrated, meanwhile, kept the team at 11, but Kenny Ducey was impressed with their late game execution:
I touched on Portland’s struggles late in games a couple of weeks ago, and this week I’m going to touch on its great play late in games. CJ McCollum led the way in two nailbiters last week, with a little help from Jusuf Nurkic and Shabazz Napier (!). Once an afterthought, the UConn product has been quite productive off the bench this season.
It’s a light, but difficult week ahead for the Trail Blazers. After their game against the Knicks tonight, they host the Bucks Thursday and the Pelicans Saturday, with all three teams featuring a plethora of young talent.