On the heels of an epic 13-game winning streak, the Trail Blazers came back down to earth last week, losing to the Rockets and Celtics. Nevertheless, the team is still in third place in the Western Conference and sits near the top of the national media’s weekly power rankings heading into the week.
In a league full of elite playmakers and closers -- one of whom he just so happens to share a backcourt with -- it’s sometimes a little too easy to sleep on CJ McCollum. That was not the case on Sunday as McCollum scored 14 points in the fourth quarter on 6-for-10 shooting, including three go-ahead shots, one of which proved to be the game winner. Since the start of last season, the only player to hit more go-ahead shots in the fourth quarter or overtime is Russell Westbrook, whom McCollum upstaged on Sunday.
CBS Sports only bumped Portland down a spot, from first to second, with Chris Barnewall impressed at the team’s ability to stay healthy (knock on wood):
Portland has remained injury-free for the most part this season. It’s had some dings and bruises along the way, as any team does, but nothing that could derail what has been a pretty excellent season.
Sports Illustrated, on the other hand, dropped the team from first all the way down to sixth. However, Rohan Nadkarni still likes what he’s seeing on the defensive end of the court:
The Blazers dropped two in a row at home before bouncing back with a win in OKC. After struggling at times together earlier this season, the Damian Lillard-C.J. McCollum duo now has a 5.2 net rating. Portland’s defensive efficiency is a respectable 104.1 when its bombs-away backcourt shares the floor.
The Trail Blazers (45-28) stay on the road this week, facing the Pelicans on Tuesday and the Grizzlies on Wednesday before returning to Portland to host the Clippers on Friday and the Grizzlies again on Sunday.