The Portland Trail Blazers had an impressive week, albeit with a mostly easy schedule. The lone loss was last night’s heart-breaker to the Nuggets, which followed victories over the Bulls and Knicks, as well as a thrashing of the Hornets. Despite the solid stretch, the national media seems to have trouble determining where this team stands in the NBA’s hierarchy, as reflected in this week’s Power Rankings round-up.
ESPN kept the status quo, only raising the Blazers from 12th to 11th. Marc J. Spears notes the team’s dominance against the Eastern Conference:
Luckily for the Blazers, all their games aren’t in the Western Conference. Portland is a surprising 14-15 in the West, 2-6 in the Northwest division and 12-3 against the Eastern Conference. If only geography could move Portland to the opposite coast.
CBS Sports also gave Portland only a modest rise, moving them up a spot to 11th. It appears Reid Forgrave has finally come down with a mild case of Nurk Fever:
The early-season conclusion: They need another star to take the burden off Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. Until then, this team will be stuck in the pretty-good-but-never-a-serious-contender category. What it looks like now: Pretty much the same, except Jusuf Nurkic has looked like the same player who was so damn good for the Blazers two years ago when they traded for him midseason. He’s not a star, but Nurkic playing at this level - 15.2 points, 10.4 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 57.1 percent true shooting, all career highs - nudges the Blazers’ ceiling upward.
Sports Illustrated, on the other hand, is looking through rose-colored glasses—moving the team all the way up to 6th, five spots higher than last week. Despite this, Khadrice Rollins notes that the Blazers have struggled against the Western Conference elite:
Portland was on a four-game winning streak going into Sunday’s matchup with the Nuggets, and one more defensive rebound after Jamal Murray’s late miss might have turned that into a five-game winning streak. For now, the Trail Blazers have to settle for their 1-5 record against the top three seeds in the West.