The Trail Blazers are playing their best basketball of the season at the most important time. Impressive wins over the Warriors, Jazz, Timberwolves and Thunder, as well as MVP caliber play from Damian Lillard has Rip City red hot and rollin’. The rest of the basketball world is starting to take notice as well.
Riding a seven-game winning streak that dates back to before the All-Star break, the team has drawn high praise from the national media in this week’s various power rankings.
ESPN has the team fifth, with Matt Williams applauding its stellar defense during the streak:
Look out for the Trail Blazers, who have won their past six games. The biggest reason? Their defense: Portland has allowed 98.1 points per 100 possessions during the winning streak, best in the NBA over that span.
CBS Sports rated Portland fourth, and Chris Barnewall is all aboard the Lillard hype train:
Damian Lillard is going to get a deserved amount of All-NBA hype thanks to what he’s been doing this season. He’s improved as a defender and has carried a Portland offense that struggled for much of the season. This has been arguably the best season of his career.
Sports Illustrated also pegged the Blazers fourth. Rohan Nadkarni touched on the defensive end as well:
Meanwhile, the Blazers have won six in a row and entered Week 21 with the fifth-best record in the league. This is a surprising development for a team that struggled for much of the early season. And shockingly, Portland’s success stems more from its No. 7 defense then its No. 16 offense. That’s right, the Blazers are scoring on par with the Hornets and Celtics but defending only 0.8 points per possession worse than the Warriors. Portland’s net rating would indicate the team has room to improve, but the Blazers are peaking at the right time.