The return of NBA basketball also means the return of power rankings. The Portland Trail Blazers restarted their season .500, with a key overtime victory over the Memphis Grizzlies and a close and confounding loss to the Boston Celtics. In many ways, it was a weekend that encapsulated exactly what it means to be a Blazer fan.
With that in mind, how did Portland’s performance affect their standing in the eyes of the power ranking powers that be? Here’s where they stand.
ESPN’s Royce Young ranked the Blazers 14th, down just one spot from their previous ranking. Young noted that while it wasn’t a bad start for Portland, they still have a glaring defense problem.
A 1-1 start probably isn’t what the Blazers hoped for, but it is at least satisfactory — especially because the win was over Memphis. The loss against Boston was competitive to the finish and Portland can review some defensive lapses and iffy clock management, but the Blazers have clearly come to the bubble a better team. At the same time, their primary issue hasn’t gotten much better: They have a 124.6 defensive rating through two games, second worst in the bubble.
Colin Ward-Henniger of CBS Sports also has the Blazers at 14th, four spots higher than previously. Ward-Henniger noted that the Blazers look energized in their fight for the playoffs, with Jusuf Nurkic helping significantly.
The Blazers fought back from 11 points down to pick up a huge overtime win over the Grizzlies in the opener, then nearly pulled off the ultimate comeback against the Celtics on Sunday, but fell just short. Seeing Jusuf Nurkic back in action (averaging 24 points, nine rebounds, five assists, 3.5 blocks in two games) makes you wonder what could have been for this team if he were healthy all season, but they still have a chance to catch Memphis or get into a play-in series. So far it looks like Portland is hungry for the playoffs, with a noticeable uptick in energy.
The Athletic’s Zach Harper dropped the Blazers two spots in his rankings to 17th, writing that the Grizzlies win and the Celtics loss showcased the best and worst aspects of this squad. He also noted the emergence of Gary Trent Jr. as an auspicious thing for Portland.
They still have a brutal schedule moving forward, but the emergence of Gary Trent Jr. this season has to excite Blazers fans. He’s been stellar in the first two games of the restart. He gives them an effective perimeter defender, even though he’s a bit undersized. He can knock down 3-pointers. They’ll need him the rest of the way. Five straight playoff opponents (four from the West) before they end the seeding schedule with Brooklyn. Blazers have to win at least three of these next five.
Portland will face off against the Houston Rockets Tuesday at 6 p.m. PT.