The Portland Trail Blazers came back down to earth last week, following an excellent road trip to kick-off the playoff stretch drive. Back-to-back losses to the Grizzlies and Thunder overshadowed a win over the Suns, and the team lost a bit of ground in the standings. Not surprisingly, they also fared slightly worse, though still quite respectable, in this week’s Power Rankings Round-Up.
ESPN dropped the team down a spot to sixth. Marc J. Spears notes their home-road record differential, with an eye on playoff seeding:
The Blazers are 25-9 at home and 15-17 on the road this season (Portland averages 117.1 points per game at home but 110.4 on the road, the third highest PPG drop in the league). That leaves the Blazers with seven home games and nine road games as they fight with Houston and Oklahoma City for the third and fourth seeds in the Western Conference playoffs. The Blazers still have a mixed bag left of road games against the Clippers, Pelicans, Spurs, Bulls, Hawks, Pistons, Timberwolves, Nuggets and Lakers.
CBS Sports also has the Blazers sixth, down from the fifth spot a week ago. Reid Forgrave thinks the team’s recent playoff woes could be behind them:
I get how Blazers fans might get a little bit restless. It does feel that they’re stuck in the same very-good-but-never-to-be-confused-with-great territory they’ve been stuck in through the Damian Lillard/CJ McCollum era. But this team is relevant. They’re the type of team who can beat anyone in the NBA on a given night. The only way this season can be considered a failure for the Blazers is if they go out and lay an egg in the first round of the playoffs like they did a year ago. But this team feels ... different.
Sports Illustrated, on the other hand, dropped Portland all the way down to eighth (down from fourth last week). Khadrice Rollins notes the important road games down the stretch:
With the majority of their remaining games on the road, the Trail Blazers will need to keep up with what they did coming out of the All-Star break, or else they will drop in the West standings. Potentially as far as the eighth seed.
Tuesday is the start of one of the team’s final two road trips, and this three-game set will include a game against the Clippers and a matchup with the Spurs on the second night of a back-to-back. They also have a four-game road trip at the end of March, but the only team above .500 Portland will face during that stretch is the Pistons.
This upcoming trip though carries a bit more weight. In addition to seeing two teams right behind in the standings, it also comes at a critical time. After having some major success away from home, now would be a bad time for the Trail Blazers to regress and struggle on the road. These seven games worth of road trips will not only heavily dictate where the Trail Blazers are seeded, but they will also likely show us how dangerous this team will be in April.
The Blazers (40-26) kick-off a three-game roadie in Tinsel Town on Tuesday night against the Clippers, then head east to New Orleans on Friday and San Antonio on Saturday before a four-game homestand.