The Portland Trail Blazers garnered some much-needed wins as they wrapped up a road trip with a victory in Chicago that featured a vintage Carmelo Anthony performance. Returning home, they dominated the Oklahoma City Thunder before taking on the Bulls once more. Though their win over the Bulls was closer than the previous one. there is no doubt that these three wins come when they were needed the most, putting a stop to a slide that had many concerned.
Monday 11/25 road win at Chicago Bulls 117-94 (6-12)
It’s been a while since a Blazer fan felt this comfortable watching their team play. This game had a vibe to it that no Blazer game this season has. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum combined for just 34 points, but the offense still put up 117 points while dominating the game on the defensive end too. Carmelo Anthony was the shining light dropping 25 points on 50% shooting, while he managed eight rebounds. He looked every bit the part of star tonight.
Wednesday 11/27 home win against the Oklahoma City Thunder 136-91 (7-12)
Two in a row! All the starters played really well tonight, combining for 103 points and shot 13-21 from three. This game never had any doubt. Lillard led the Blazers with 27 and led the team with only 30 minutes played.
Friday 11/29 home win against the Chicago Bulls 107-103 (8-12)
Not as convincing as the game in Chicago four days earlier, but it yielded the same result. The Blazer starting five looked on point all game long. Lillard led the way with 28 while Anthony, McCollum, and Rodney Hood combined for 62. Hassan Whiteside had a Blazer record 10 blocks on the night.
Starting Five coming together
Rotations are never truly set, but Terry Stotts knows where he’s going until something drastic changes. Lillard, McCollum, Hood, Anthony, and Whiteside started every game this week and each player has individually thrived. Oh, and Portland won all of their games. Lillard carried this offense through the first three weeks and it cratered while he was out. Now, while he remains the engine that makes this offense go, the load he has to carry night to night is significantly lighter.
While the starting five are playing well, Portland’s already thin bench seems to have taken a step back. Anfernee Simons scored 14 in the Oklahoma City game on Wednesday, but combined for 3 points in 39 minutes in the two matchups against the Bulls. Nassir Little, who has really come on as of late, combined to score seven points in the three games this week. Other the 14 point game for Simons and a 12 point outing for Skal Labissiere, no other Blazer player off the bench hit the 5 points mark over the week! None of this is a cause for concern: Skal, Little and Simons are all young and getting their first real taste of action, but let’s hope bench outings like these are far and few between moving forward.
There is a feeling in Rip City: positivity that hasn’t existed much this season. Not only did the Blazers win all three games this week, but they looked really good doing it. Of course, the teams they beat are basically already out of playoff contention, but that's a leg up on last week when the Blazers lost to the Cavaliers. Cautious optimism is not a thrilling headline but as a Blazer fan, this is the most we’ve had to hold on to so far.
Next Week Preview
It was important to get the momentum heading the Blazers way before this week as Portland faces three opponents that are a combined 23-7 in their last 10 games each. I don’t think I need to remind anyone of the star power coming out of the two LA teams. But with a few more injuries in the review mirror and morale feeling high, Portland is catching these teams at arguably the best time possible. As bad as it has been, Portland remains only a game out of the 8th spot in the West. Could this be the week they take it over? That may be ambitious but a 2-1 week would speak volumes.