The new year has not been kind to the Portland Trail Blazers. The team has gone 2-8 in their past 10 games, with losses to teams like the Minnesota Timberwolves without Karl-Anthony Towns and a 24-point loss to the Knicks on New Years Day. After another 1-2 week, here’s where other outlets have the Blazers ranked.
ESPN’s Royce Young has the Blazers 18th, noting that in the past 10 games the Blazers have sported the worst defensive rating in the league.
The Blazers are 2-8 in their past 10 games. They averaged a defensive rating of 116.4 in those games, which would rank as the worst in the league -- yes, worse than the Wizards’ -- over the course of the season. Their starting five was torched (110.1 defensive rating) in those 10 games, and specifically, any lineup Carmelo Anthony is in is giving up heaps of points (115.8 individual defensive rating). Melo is still scoring, but the other side of the ball is beginning to catch up.
Michael Shapiro of Sports Illustrated ranked Portland 19th, also citing the porous defense as a glaring issue during this 10-game stretch.
Portland has lost eight of its last ten, failing to capitalize on a uniquely light back end of the Western Conference playoff chase. What’s the culprit behind their struggles? The Blazers can’t really stop anyone. They’re allowing 116.4 points per 100 possessions over their last ten games (better than only Denver) and only two teams crash the defensive glass at a worse rate. Damian Lillard has enough offensive weapons around him. Portland misses Jusuf Nurkic in a big way.
Carmelo Anthony is no stranger to clutch buckets, but the one he hit to ice the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday had a little extra meaning attached—not just because Melo is long past the days of reliable dominance, but also because it gave the Blazers their first victory over an opponent with a winning record since November.
Portland finished its five-game road trip with a loss to the Wolves on Thursday and then dropped Saturday’s meeting with the Milwaukee Bucks, falling to 16-24 on the year. The Blazers were 14-16 on Dec. 21, but they rank 29th in defensive efficiency since then. Hence the 2-8 mark over their last 10 games.
The Blazers fell all the way to 24th in CBS Sports’ Colin Ward-Henniger’s power rankings, writing that Melo’s game-winner was spoiled by the loss against the Timberwolves, which makes their race for the eighth seed that much more difficult.
Carmelo Anthony’s game-winner in Toronto was spoiled by a disastrous Blazers performance in a blowout loss to the Timberwolves two nights later. Portland has now lost eight of its last 10 games as it remains logjammed in the race for the eighth and final playoff spot out West. CJ McCollum is mired in a mini-slump, shooting 36 percent from the field in his last three games.
The Blazers kick off their four-game week with a home matchup against the Charlotte Hornets. Tip-off is tonight at 7 p.m. PT.