As the NBA season rolls into December, the Portland Trail Blazers are moving backwards, having lost five of their last six games. This past week, the team eked out a win against the Magic, only to drop back-to-back contests to the Nuggets and Spurs. The continued slide was reflected in this week’s NBA Power Rankings, compiled by various national publications.
CBS Sports has the team ranked 10th, down from sixth last week. Reid Forgrave is concerned with the recent defensive drop-off:
The Blazers started the season as hot as anyone, but have lost five of six, albeit against a tough schedule. Simply put, they need another dude to get buckets. CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard have been awesome; Jusuf Nirkic is the only guy on the team averaging more than nine points per game. But the defense has been the bigger issue. During that six-game stretch, the Blazers have the lowest-rated defense in the NBA.
ESPN pegged Portland 12th, down three spots from a week ago. Marc J. Spears also points out the team’s deficiencies on defense:
The Blazers have lost five of the past six games and two straight -- so what’s the problem? Portland has been horrible defensively, allowing 123.2 points per game in those five losses. The Blazers have also lost seven of their past 10 games after jumping out to a 10-3 start.
Sports Illustrated also ranked the Blazers 12th. Khadrice Rollins points out these early losses to Western Conference competition could come back to haunt the team come playoff time:
After Dame Lillard exploded against the Magic to get Portland a win, the squad let one get away against the Nuggets. With the West so tight from top to bottom, the Trail Blazers saw themselves slide down the standings by losing five of their last six. Losing four of those games to teams in the West will also feel like a killer when it’s time for tiebreakers to determine playoff seeding.