There’s good news and bad news for the Portland Trail Blazers. The good news is that they didn’t have a winless week! The bad news is that they still went 1-3 with double-digit losses to the Knicks and Heat as well as a blown lead against the Phoenix Suns to start the week. But they still beat the injury-depleted Wizards, so there’s something, right? Here’s where other outlets have us ranked.
ESPN’s Royce Young dropped the Blazers one spot to 18th, saying that Portland most certainly does not look like a playoff team right now.
At some point, something has to give for the Blazers. They’ve lost six of their past seven games and are clearly a significant notch below playoff-caliber teams. In this latest seven-game slump, they’re allowing 118.8 points per 100 possessions, the second-worst mark in the league in that span. There was always a worry about the trade-off the Blazers were willing to rationalize when they signed Carmelo Anthony. But it appears the defensive chickens are coming home to roost right now. Just asking Damian Lillard to be a superhero isn’t working, either: He has scored 30-plus in five of those seven games.
Michael Shapiro of Sports Illustrated put the Blazers 16th, citing the atrocious defense as the thing holding Portland back even while Damian Lillard puts up mammoth numbers and Carmelo Anthony shoots efficiently from three.
Carmelo Anthony has been efficient from three from Portland, but the Blazers still lag behind the top eight seeds in the West. They have their scuffling defense to blame. Portland has the NBA’s No. 28 defense since Dec. 1, and they rank No. 25 in defensive rebounding rate. Damian Lillard’s scoring binges are falling short in a stacked Western Conference.
Bleacher Report’s Grant Hughes pointed to the bottom tier defense as a reason to rank Portland 20th, writing that the 24-point loss against the Knicks is just a microcosm of the issue.
Carmelo Anthony scored a season-high 26 points in New York on Wednesday, but Mitchell Robinson’s 22 points on a perfect 11-of-11 shooting night helped the Knicks saddle the struggling Blazers with a 117-93 loss.
Portland’s listless pick-and-roll defense allowed much of Robinson’s damage inside, a troubling development. The Knicks have spaced the floor better lately, but it’s not like they boast a collection of “stay home at all costs” threats from deep. Portland could have mitigated the interior damage, but that would have required some commitment, communication and defensive force.
Those have been in short supply for the Blazers’ bottom-10 defense.
Damian Lillard’s 35 points against an even more accommodating Washington defense got Portland off its five-game run of futility, but the losing ways resumed with Sunday’s loss to the Miami Heat.
Finally, Colin Ward-Henniger has the Blazers lowest at 23rd, with the defense once again being highlighted as the problem.
After a tough loss to the Suns, the Blazers were absolutely blown off the court by the Knicks in one of their worst losses of the season. They avoided the same fate against the Wizards before losing to the Heat in a game without Jimmy Butler and CJ McCollum. They’ve gotten great production from Damian Lillard, McCollum and Hassan Whiteside all season, but their 119 defensive rating this week isn’t going to result in many wins.
Portland plays their first of three games this week against the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday at 4:00 p.m. PT.