The Trail Blazers pulled off a successful 4-0 week just before the holidays, moving them back into postseason position. Regardless of the quality of those victories, Portland’s set of positive results moved them up the power rankings.
Here is a look at Monday’s power rankings.
ESPN placed the Blazers at No. 15 in the rankings, a move that is five spots higher than last week’s rankings. Royce Young credited Damian Lillard and a friendly schedule when discussing Portland’s spot in the rankings.
A 4-0 week has the Blazers right back in the playoff mix and feeling much better about themselves. They’ve won five of six, all against sub-.500 teams, but the Blazers hadn’t been taking advantage of those kind of games before. Damian Lillard is looking healthy again, averaging 30.7 points on 47% shooting during Portland’s winning streak.
CBS Sports and ESPN appear to be in agreement, as the Blazers also moved up to the No. 15 spot in their latest rankings. Colin Ward-Henninger utilized a slogan from an in-arena sign when highlighting Portland’s week.
Guess who’s quietly creeping toward .500 after a 4-0 week? A fan at the Blazers’ home win over the Timberwolves held a sign that read, “Depleted, not defeated,” and that perfectly summarizes Portland, which lost Carmelo Anthony in the latest of a string of frontcourt injuries. Thankfully Anthony’s knee injury doesn’t appear to be serious, but Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and Hassan Whiteside have dragged this team back into contention.
The move to the middle of the pack continued in Bleacher Report’s rankings. The Blazers’ place at No. 15 was accompanied with the following explanation:
Portland’s 4-0 week included wins over the Phoenix Suns, Golden State Warriors and Minnesota Timberwolves in addition to Orlando, and it accumulated those victories in a familiar fashion: by leaning on one of the league’s most dangerous backcourts.
Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum both exceeded the 30-point mark against the Warriors and Magic, marking just the second time they’ve each gone for 30 in back-to-back games since teaming up in 2013-14.
Hassan Whiteside was helpful, too. He went off for 26 boards and seven blocks in Portland’s 113-106 win over the Wolves on Saturday.
The Blazers best placement came in The Athletic’s weekly rankings. Portland moved up to the No. 14 spot following an undefeated week. Zach Harper detailed CJ McCollum’s uptick in efficiency when discussing the Blazers’ recent swing.
In October/November, McCollum put up 22.0 points on 43.9 percent shooting and just 2.3 free throw attempts per game. He had a 52.3 percent true shooting and a 25.9 percent usage rate. Those aren’t bad numbers, but they also weren’t lifting the Blazers enough to get them out of the concerns of Blazers fan’s minds. In December, McCollum looks much more lethal. He’s giving 23.3 points on 49.3 percent from the field and 3.0 free throws each night. His usage is down a bit at 25.1 percent (Carmelo effect?), but his true shooting is up to 60.3 percent. This is the deadly McCollum efficiency the Blazers need to see more. He can help them get over .500 and into the thick of the middle of the playoff race.