After an 0-3 week that saw back-to-back losses to the Oklahoma City Thunder and a loss to the Denver Nuggets, the Portland Trail Blazers have fallen in Week 11 NBA Power Rankings. It was a disappointing end to a six-game road trip that began fairly well in the Texas Triangle. Read what national media had to say, below.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com: No. 14 (previously No. 11)
The Blazers won six of their first seven road games this season. But since then, they’re just 4-9 away from the Moda Center, with three of those four wins against three of the five teams that have losing records at home. And the Thunder were just 7-7 at home before sweeping a two-game series with Portland last week. The two games were different in regard to how efficiently the two teams scored (efficiently on Monday, not so much on Wednesday), but they were the same in that the Blazers led by double-digits early, turned the ball over more, and attempted 16 fewer free throws each night.
They lost the two games by a total of five points, scoring just 19 points on 23 clutch possessions. The Blazers didn’t shoot poorly down the stretch, but committed six clutch turnovers, with the end of the Monday game looking like a Keystone Cops routine. With the Blazers up one and the shot clock off, Anfernee Simons deflected Jerami Grant’s inbounds pass to Damian Lillard, allowing the Thunder to take the lead on the ensuing possession. And then Lillard drove to the basket and collided with Josh Hart. (It’s not a foul if it’s your teammate.) The Blazers still have the league’s fourth-ranked clutch offense, but they’ve lost six of their last nine games that were within five points in the last five minutes.
After a non-clutch loss in Denver (in which they allowed the Nuggets to shoot 58%) on Friday, the Blazers still have seven games left on a stretch where they’re playing 12 of 15 against teams that currently have losing records. Four of those remaining seven games are on the road, but they were taking care of business against below-.500 teams until those two losses in Oklahoma City.
Zach Harper, The Athletic: No. 16 (previously No. 13)
The Portland Trail Blazers have been one of the top shot-making teams in the clutch. Their defense can fail them, but they’ve got four guys ready to knock it down whenever they get the chance. Chauncey Billups has a lot of weapons to go to, and it doesn’t just have to be superhero Damian Lillard.
Mr. Reliable: Damian Lillard | 45.7 FG | 37.5 3FG | 92.3 FT | 32.0 points per 36 | 6.4 rebounds per 36 | 5.8 assists per 36 | 3.2 turnovers per 36
We can get cute by talking up how good Jerami Grant, Anfernee Simons or even Josh Hart have been in the clutch. And they have been. Lillard is still the standard for this team, and he’s still the one everybody is scared of beating them. Dame Time is still very much alive.
Mr. Unreliable: Justise Winslow | 16.7 FG | 0.0 3FG | 50.0 FT | 2.6 points per 36 | 9.4 rebounds per 36 | 3.4 assists per 36 | 0.9 turnovers per 36
This is nitpicking, mostly because the Blazers perform extremely well offensively in the clutch. Winslow barely is asked to make a shot, and he’s a good rebounder and playmaker when he gets the ball. Small sample, but someone had to be the “bad performer” here.
Next up: The Trail Blazers have a few days off after defeating the Charlotte Hornets before facing the woebegone Golden State Warriors on December 30.