The Portland Trail Blazers have taken care of business down the stretch, putting themselves in solid position in the standings with the NBA Playoffs just days away. The Blazers won three of four games last week, and while there are questions about how the team will fare in a playoff matchup without Jusuf Nurkic, national pundits agree that the team was among the best in the league during the regular season. Here is our final Power Rankings Round-Up for the 2018-19 campaign.
ESPN has the team eighth, and Marc J. Spears is encouraged by the return of CJ McCollum on Sunday night:
The Blazers are sitting on the fourth seed in the Western Conference with two games remaining. Portland got some great news, getting guard CJ McCollum back after he missed 10 games with a knee injury. Even with McCollum out, All-Star Damian Lillard led Portland to an 8-2 record over that span.
Sports Illustrated also has Portland pegged eighth. Khadrice Rollins looks ahead to post-season expectations:
Best Case: Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum take over a series and the Blazers sneak into the second round where they get bounced in six.
Worst Case: Losing Jusuf Nurkic proves to be entirely too much and Portland gets swept out the first round again.
Prediction: Dame has been too good this to get swept again. But without Nurkic, the Trail Blazers don’t last more than five or six games. C.J. then spends the summer saying “I told you so” to Kevin Durant about how Portland could have benefited from signing Boogie and Nurk last summer.
The Blazers went 8-2 without C.J. McCollum, who returned to log 25 minutes in their win against Denver on Sunday. Four of those eight wins (and both losses) came after Jusuf Nurkic’s season-ending injury. Enes Kanter has averaged 17.6 points (on 62 percent shooting) and 10.7 rebounds in his seven games as a starter and, more importantly, the Blazers have allowed just a point per possession in his 198 minutes on the floor over that stretch. Of course, four of the seven opponents had bottom-10 offenses. The only top-10 offense the Blazers faced over that stretch was that of the Nuggets, who rested three starters in the second of their two weekend meetings. It’s very likely that the No. 4-5 series in the West is Portland-Utah, but the Blazers need one more win (or a Utah loss) to clinch home-court advantage. In splitting the season series, both the Blazers and Jazz won on each other’s home floor.