After going 3-1 in Week 10 of the NBA season, the Portland Trail Blazers remain on the cusp of the top-10 in NBA power rankings. Portland defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves (133-112), defeated the San Antonio Spurs (128-112), lost to the Dallas Mavericks (110-130), and defeated the Houston Rockets (107-95).
Here is what the national media is saying.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com: No. 11 (previously No. 10)
It was noted on Thursday that the Blazers ranked as one of the league’s most improved defensive teams. But that was mostly because of how bad they were last season, and they still ranked just 22nd defensively before Friday, when they allowed the Mavs to score 79 points on 50 possessions over the middle two quarters. In the second, Dallas ran an empty-corner pick-and-roll (with Spencer Dinwiddie) multiple possessions in a row, because the Blazers couldn’t stop it. And in the third, Dallas ran a double-drag pick-and-roll (with Luka Doncic) over and over, because the Blazers couldn’t stop that either.
The Blazers went 2-1 in the Texas Triangle, and are 6-2 in December, still in the top six in the West. They have the league’s No. 1 offense this month (120.3 points scored per 100 possessions) by a healthy margin, with Anfernee Simons shooting 51% from the field, 41% from 3-point range and 14-for-14 from the line. Damian Lillard has shown some burst going to the basket, but has increased his 3-point frequency, taking 65% of his shots from beyond the arc in December, with double-digit attempts in eight of his last nine games overall. He passed Jamal Crawford for eighth all-time in made 3-pointers (2,223) on Saturday and Simons has a chance to pass Stephen Curry for the season lead in the next couple of weeks.
The Blazers have done a good job taking care of business, 9-3 against the teams that are currently at or below .500, with two of the three losses having come to the Mavs, who just dropped to .500 with their Doncic-less loss on Saturday. The Blazers will play their first two games against the Thunder this week, before ending their six-game trip in Denver on Friday. The Blazers split their first two games with the Nuggets, with their October win being the fourth most efficient offensive performance (135 points on 96 possessions) for any team this season.
Zach Harper, The Athletic: No. 13 (previously No. 14)
Weekly slate: Win over Wolves, Win at Spurs, Loss at Mavs, Win at Rockets
Big-ticket gift idea: New shoes for everybody. A lack of new shoes is the only reason I can guess as to why the Portland Trail Blazers play so slowly. This Blazers team has a lot of youth and athleticism. They don’t just have five Jusuf Nurkić-like players out there to plod along slowly. Let’s get them in some new kicks and see if it gets them to run a lot more. This is one of the slowest teams in the league, and while the offense is still highly efficient, I think they have the skill to be even more effective with a more up-tempo squad.
What Ian is getting them at the office: Umbrellas. Get everybody umbrellas, not because it rains a lot in the Pacific Northwest but also because this team is launching from 3-point range. They’re shooting almost 39 percent as a team on the season. They shoot a high volume of 3-pointers too, despite playing like snails out there. I really enjoy how effective this team has been, and they’ll get better defensively when Gary Payton II is back.
Why this ranking? Bit of an easy schedule for the Blazers this week, but they still went 3-1 and continue to build some momentum. If they swept the week by beating Dallas, they’d have at least been one spot higher.
Kyle Wood, Sports Illustrated: No. 11 (previously No. 13)
Portland picked up three double-digit wins last week, powered by the duo of Damian Lillard and Anfernee Simons. Lillard scored 38 to beat the Timberwolves and 37 a few days later in a win in San Antonio. Over the weekend it was Simons who led the way with 32 to get past the Rockets. The Trail Blazers lost to the Mavericks for the second time in as many meetings, as they were unable to mount a second-half comeback after letting up 72 first-half points.
Next up: The Trail Blazers take on the Oklahoma City Thunder tonight at 5:00 p.m. (PST).