POWER RANKINGS » Moving Up After Going 4-0 In Week 8

by Casey Holdahl
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For at least the last month, the Portland Trail Blazers have been frozen in place in the weekly Power Rankings much in the same way most of the Willamette Valley has been encased in ice for the last few days (though hopefully not for much longer). But after going 4-0 last week and winning six of their last seven, the Trail Blazers have finally broken away from the middle of the pack and have moved into the Top 10 of all but one of the rankings. And with a slate of winnable games this week, they have the opportunity to move up the standings and the rankings despite still being without CJ McCollum (broken left foot) and Jusuf Nurkic (broken right wrist). 

Here are the Week 8 Power Rankings... 

• The panel of voters at ESPN has the Trail Blazers at No. 9 this week, three spots better than last week...

It was Dame Time in Big D, with Damian Lillard serving up one dagger missile after another to finish off the Mavericks on Sunday. Quietly, the Blazers have won four straight and six of their past seven and are settling into the top six of the West. With all the attrition the Blazers have battled already this season -- injuries to Jusuf Nurkic, CJ McCollum and Zach Collins -- to be in the upper half of the West is an accomplishment. And it begs the question: At fourth in the league in scoring, ninth in assists and maybe first in leadership, shouldn't Dame be in the MVP conversation by now?

The folks at ESPN have the Trail Blazers behind the Nuggets at No. 8 and ahead of the Spurs at No. 10. 

• John Schuhmann at NBA.com also has the Trail Blazers at No. 9 this week, which is also a three-spot improvement over last week's ranking...

Pace: 99.8 (17) OffRtg: 115.2 (6) DefRtg: 115.0 (29) NetRtg: +0.2 (15)

The Blazers have the league’s 29th-ranked defense, they have the point differential of a .500 team, they’ve now been missing their second leading scorer for half of their 26 games, and they’re getting minimal offensive production from their two starting forwards. But they just keep winning, with Damian Lillard’s brilliance being supplemented by Enes Kanter’s offensive boards (he leads the league with 4.2 put-back points per game) and Gary Trent Jr.’s 3-point shooting (13th in the league at 45% for the season) .

Now, Carmelo Anthony is enjoying a revival. Through Feb. 1, Anthony had an effective field goal percentage of 42.9%, the eighth worst mark among 213 players with at least 100 field goal attempts at that point. But as the Blazers have won five of their last seven games, Anthony has averaged 18.6 points on an effective field goal percentage of 56.1%. He hit the game-winning free throw against Philly on Thursday, and though he was 1-for-8 from 3-point range in Dallas on Sunday, he made up for it by blowing by Maxi Kleber for a ferocious two-hand dunk. Lillard, of course, provided the heroics. The step-back 3 that put the Blazers ahead for good with 32 seconds left was his fourth bucket (on seven attempts) to tie or take the lead in the final minute of the fourth quarter or overtime. That leads the league, with three players – DeMar DeRozan, James Harden and Collin Sexton – having three.

The Blazers still have two games left (Tuesday and Wednesday) in their only stretch of five games in seven days in the first-half schedule.

Shuhumann has the Trail Blazers behind the Bucks at No. 9 and ahead of the Spurs at No. 10. 

• Colin Ward-Henninger at CBS Sports has the Trail Blazers at No. 5 this week, eight spots better than last week...

Damian Lillard must have seen his name being left out of recent MVP discussions, as the superstar point guard went on a tear this week, leading his short-handed Blazers to a perfect week to make it seven wins in nine games. Lillard averaged 30 points and 7.3 assists this week, while Carmelo Anthony came up clutch, averaging 21.3 points, including nine in the fourth quarter, on 45 percent 3-point shooting during the four games. Portland put up an impressive 122.5 net rating this week as Gary Trent continues to fill in admirably for CJ McCollum.

Ward-Henninger has the Trail Blazers behind the Lakers at No. 4 and ahead of the Nuggets at No. 6. 

• Zach Harper at The Athletic also has the Trail Blazers at No. 9 this week, a four-spot improvement over last week...

A perfect week for the Blazers with two very good wins over Philadelphia and Dallas. The Blazers lost key players over the past month, and they’re finding ways to make it feel like nothing is wrong.

Harper has the Trail Blazers behind the 76ers at No. 8 and ahead of the Pacers at No. 10. 

• Mo Dakhil at Bleacher Report has the Trail Blazers at No. 10 this week, three spots better than last week...

Portland deserves a lot of credit for maintaining despite all of their injuries. Since CJ McCollum has been out, the Blazers have been able to go 8-5 and stay in the thick of the playoff race. In the last week they went 3-1, including a very nice win over the Sixers.

The Blazers got a vintage Carmelo Anthony performance all last week. He averaged 21.3 points and shot 44.8 percent from three. Anthony's 24 points and game-winning free throws against Philadelphia highlighted his week.

Another player who has stepped up for the Blazers since McCollum's injury has been Gary Trent Jr. He is averaging 17.7 points on shooting 45.0 percent from downtown over the last 13 games.

It has been surprising that Portland has been able to stay afloat despite the injuries, and if this continues, the team will only get stronger once the cavalry returns.

Dakhil has the Trail Blazers behind the Nuggets at No. 9 and ahead of the Pacers at No. 11. 

• Our friends up north (or former friends, for reasons you'll understand in a moment) at The Score has the Trail Blazers at No. 12 this week, three spots better than last week. And this week, they're listing Most Improved Player options for each team...

It's slim pickings from a Trail Blazers side short on individual improvements. Jusuf Nurkic's latest ailment means Enes Kanter's production is up, a blessing that helps draw attention away from his defensive shortcomings.

Is there no Canadian translation for "Gary Trent Jr." because otherwise, this is quite the perplexing statement.

The Score has the Trail Blazers behind the Spurs at No. 11 and ahead of the Raptors at No. 13. 

• Corey Rausch at Hoops Habit has the Trail Blazers at No. 10 this week (even if the graphic incorrectly says "19"), four spots better than last week...

It is becoming increasingly obvious that it may just not matter who is in the lineup for the Portland Trail Blazers as long as Damian Lillard is part of it. Even as his teammates get injured around him, a collection of their depth will step up in their stead and continue to carry the Blazers to more wins.

Most impressively from this week, the Blazers were facing the Philadelphia 76ers and got another win. Much was made about the upset of the Sixers before, but this time the Sixers were healthy and the Blazers still walked away victorious.

As impressive as Damian Lillard has been (28.7 points per game this week), Carmelo Anthony may actually be more astounding. Brought back this season to be part of their bench depth, the veteran has stepped up in the absence of his teammates and is thriving. This week, he posted a line of 23.3 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game. That production has been essential to a team missing its second and third option on offense.

What the Blazers are doing this season is special. They have established themselves as a fixture in the Western Conference playoff picture for years because of their offense and their survivability. This year they have epitomized that. The Blazers are hanging tough in the standings. Before long, CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic will be back and these banked wins will go a long way.

Rausch has the Trail Blazers behind the Celtics at No. 9 and ahead of the Golden State Warriors at No. 11. 

• Adam Caparell at Complex has the the Trail Blazers at No. 9 this week, two spots better than their last ranking...

Another good win for the Blazers Sunday down in Dallas for a team that’s looking a lot steadier over recent weeks despite being without CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkić. Portland has won six of its last seven games thanks in large part to Damian Lillard consistently delivering during Dame Time. If you don’t know now you know the Blazers currently sit in fifth place in the West.

Caparell has the Trail Blazers behind the Nuggets at No. 8 and ahead of the Spurs at No. 10. 

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