The Portland Trail Blazers have their backs against the wall early on in the season. While they once enjoyed the No. 1 ranking in the Western Conference, they now sit No. 9 and are on the decline. Mike Tokito of Forbes highlights the similarity to teams of the past, but also how this year’s team may not reach a same result:
It’s true that at 15-13, the Blazers have the identical record that they had after 28 games last season, when they went 34-20 the rest of the way and finished third in the West. And they are ahead of their pace the two seasons before that, when they were 13-15 in 2016-17 and 11-17 in 2015-16, and made the playoff both times.
Still, the Blazers continue to show signs that this season could end with a less favorable outcome. For one thing, they kept a remarkable record going, losing for the 13th time after trailing at the end of the third quarter. They are 15-0 when leading at the end of the third.
Part of Portland’s woes goes back to their bench, which has fallen to No. 22 in bench scoring (33.7 points per game). As Tokito points out, main bench players like Zach Collins and Nik Stauskas have fallen off:
At this point, the Blazers cannot afford subpar games from their main scorers. Portland’s bench, which was such a key part of the team’s 10-3 start, has lost major ground offensively. During the eight losses in their current 11-game slump, the Blazers reserves were outscored seven times by the opponents’ bench.
You can read more from Tokito’s article here.