The Portland Trail Blazers, nearing the end of their monster seven-game road trip, are one of the hottest teams in the NBA—having dominated their competition since the All-Star break. They’re clicking at the perfect time, having won six of their last seven with the NBA Playoffs just around the corner. Not surprisingly, the national media has Portland among the league’s best in this week’s Power Rankings Round-Up.
The Blazers had to be ecstatic that newcomer Rodney Hood finally had a breakthrough game. The veteran swingman had 27 points, all after the 2:27 mark in the third quarter, in a win at Charlotte on Sunday. Hood had missed 25 of 32 field goal attempts and nine of 10 3-pointers in the previous five games.
CBS Sports also pegged Portland fifth, and Reid Forgrave points out that the team has surpassed pre-season expectations:
Preseason projected win total: 41.3. Currently on pace for: 50.8. Difference: +9.5 wins. Savvy trade-deadline moves where the Blazers improved around the margins without giving up much. The Blazers have one game left (in Memphis) on a seven-game post-All-Star break road trip. So far, they’re 5-1, having beaten the Sixers and Celtics. This team could continue to push its way up the standings, especially since they’ll spent much of March at the Moda Center.
Sports Illustrated upped the ante, ranking the Blazers fourth. Khadrice Rollins thinks Hood will be something of an x-factor down the stretch:
The Blazers have been dominating during this seven-game road trip. Assuming they take care of business against the Grizzlies, they will finish the trip at 6-1.
In Sunday’s win over the Hornets, it was Rodney Hood who stepped up and proved to be the difference maker. His season-high 27 points led the way in the 10-point win and provided hope that maybe Hood can supply a performance like this in the playoffs.
Hood hadn’t scored in double figures with the Trail Blazers since he put up 14 in his first game with the squad. There’s no way Hood can produce enough to hold over the entire bench like he did Sunday, but if he can step up as the leader of that unit, it could make a huge difference in how Portland’s March and April.