Power Rankings: Road Wins And Minor Upward Movement In Week Five

by Casey Holdahl
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It was tough to know what to expect from the Trail Blazers when they set off on their first extended road trip of the season over a week ago after playing 11 of 13 games at the Moda Center. Portland looked good to great in wins versus Denver and Orlando and absolutely awful in losses to the Nets (at home) and Kings, so how they'd fare on their first big trip east was anybody's guess.

But with just one game remaining on what was a five-game trip before the team heads back home, it's fair to say the Trail Blazers have exceeded expectations with wins versus the Grizzlies, Nets and Wizards. Spotting the Sixers 13 points to start what would be a blowout in Philadelphia was certainly a low point, but other than that, it's been a rather successful trip for the Trail Blazers, one that should give them and their fans some confidence going into another extended home stretch. And if they're able to defeat the Knicks tonight at Madison Square Garden (tipoff scheduled for 4:30 p.m. on NBC Sports NW and Rip City Radio 620 AM) to finish the trip by going 4-1, even better. 

But while you might be feeling better about where the team is at, going 3-1 last week didn't seem to carry much sway with regard to the weekly Power Rankings. While your Trail Blazers didn't drop in any of the rankings, they didn't get much of a bump either, with most of the rankers either moving them up one or two spots or keeping them unchanged. One gets the sense that the rankers aren't really buying what Portland is selling yet, especially on the defensive end, but 20 games into the season, it might be time to start taking it seriously.

Now, onto this week's Power Rankings...

• The panel of voters at ESPN.com has the Trail Blazers at No. 8 this week, three spots better than last week...

Damian Lillard, Jusuf Nurkic and CJ McCollum combined to score 89 points in Friday's two-point win against the Nets, their second-highest point total as teammates. All three scored at least 25 points, the first time three Trail Blazers players had scored 25 points in the same game since November 2012.

The folks at ESPN.com have the Trail Blazers behind the Raptors at No. 7 and ahead of the Sixers at No. 10.

• John Schuhmann of NBA.com has the Trail Blazers at No. 9 this week, unchanged from last week...

Pace: 99.3 (19) OffRtg: 103.2 (20) DefRtg: 99.6 (3) NetRtg: +3.6 (5)

The Blazers never recovered from an 0-for-13 start in Philly on Wednesday, but are 3-1 on their road trip that ends at Madison Square Garden on Monday, with a big game (29 points, 15 rebounds, four blocks, and the go-ahead bucket) from Jusuf Nurkic in Brooklyn on Friday, a big comeback (from 17 points down in the fourth quarter) in Washington on Saturday, and big buckets from C.J. McCollum (5-for-6 in the clutch on the trip) in all three games. Despite the absence of Al-Farouq Aminu for the last 12, their defense continues to hold up. After the Washington win (with John Wall out), they've had the league's best defense against top-10 offenses, having allowed just 96 points per 100 possessions in going 4-1 against that group.

Schuhmann has the Trail Blazers behind the 76ers at No. 8 and ahead of the Timberwolves at No. 10.

• David Aldridge, also of NBA.com, has the Trail Blazers at No. 10 this week, one spot better than last week...

Blazers turned what looked like an awful road trip into a productive one with improbable back-to-back wins at Nets, Wizards.

Aldridge has the Trail Blazers behind the Bucks at No. 9 and ahead of the Timberwolves at No. 11.

• Kenny Ducey at SI.com has the Trail Blazers at No. 11 this week, unchanged from last week...

I touched on Portland’s struggles late in games a couple of weeks ago, and this week I’m going to touch on its great play late in games. CJ McCollum led the way in two nailbiters last week, with a little help from Jusuf Nurkic and Shabazz Napier (!). Once an afterthought, the UConn product has been quite productive off the bench this season.

Ducey has the Trail Blazers behind the 76ers at No. 10 and ahead of the Pacers at No. 12.

• Chris Barnewall at CBSSports.com has the Trail Blazers at No. 7 this week, a three-spot improvement from last week...

Going across the coast is never easy for either conference, but Portland looks in control of its current East Coast swing. Unlike previous years, this season's Blazers team feels real thanks to their great defense.

Barnewall has the Trail Blazers behind the 76ers at No. 6 and ahead of the Pistons at No. 8.

• AJ Neuharth-Keusch of USA Today has the Trail Blazers at No. 9 this week, unchanged from last week...

Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic each scored 25-plus points in Friday's win over the Nets — the first time a Blazers trio has done so since 1995, per Elias Sports.

Neuharth-Keusch has the Trail Blazers behind the 76ers at No. 8 and ahead of the Timberwolves at No. 10.

• Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press has the Trail Blazers at No. 9...

A sad day for the franchise with the death of former Blazer and legendary announcer Steve “Snapper” Jones.

Sad indeed.

Ellis has the Trail Blazers has the Trail Blazers behind the 76ers at No. 8 and ahead of the Timberwolves at No. 10.

• Will Guillory at NOLA.com has the Trail Blazers at No. 7 in his rankings...

Portland currently ranks No. 3 in the NBA in defensive efficiency (99.6 points per 100 possessions) after finishing last season ranked No. 21.

Guillory has the Trail Blazers behind the Spurs at No. 6 and ahead of the Raptors at No. 8.

• Gerald Bourguet of Hoops Habit, in rankings post on November 22, has the Trail Blazers at No. 7, six spots better than their previous ranking...

Like the Pelicans, the Portland Trail Blazers seem poised to capitalize on injuries to the Nuggets, Clippers, Jazz and Grizzlies (though the absence of Al-Farouq Aminu has admittedly taken a toll).

Still, the Blazers should be very thankful for their second-ranked defense, a healthy Jusuf Nurkic, surprising contributions from Shabazz Napier and Noah Vonleh, and of course, the star backcourt that is actually putting in work on the defensive end now.

Bourguet has the Trail Blazers behind the Cavaliers at No. 6 and ahead of the Wizards at No. 8.

• Kurt Helin of NBCSports.com, also in rankings posted on Nov. 22, has the Trail Blazers at No. 10, four spots better than their preview ranking...

Like the Pelicans, the Portland Trail Blazers seem poised to capitalize on injuries to the Nuggets, Clippers, Jazz and Grizzlies (though the absence of Al-Farouq Aminu has admittedly taken a toll).

Still, the Blazers should be very thankful for their second-ranked defense, a healthy Jusuf Nurkic, surprising contributions from Shabazz Napier and Noah Vonleh, and of course, the star backcourt that is actually putting in work on the defensive end now.

Helin has the Trail Blazers behind the Cavaliers at No. 9 and ahead of the Nuggets at No. 11.

• Brad Rowland at UPROXX/Dime, in rankings posted on Nov. 22, has the Trail Blazers at No. 10, one spot better than the previous week...

Everything comes down to whether you buy Portland’s defense continuing to operate at a high level. I really don’t but, in the same breath, the offense hasn’t risen to the heights that we expect just yet. It’s been a weird but successful start.

Rowland has the Trail Blazers behind the Timberwolves at No. 9 and ahead of the Nuggets at No. 10.