POWER RANKINGS » Portland's Best Week Of The 2019-20 Season
Other than injuries, one of the most common refrains regarding the 2019-20 Trail Blazers is that they don't have many "good wins." Granted, they don't have a lot of wins in general, at least in relative terms, but the majority of their wins have been against teams under .500. Those are games you still need to get, but those wins don't exactly inspire confidence that the tide is about to turn.
But after arguably having less than four "good wins" all season, the Trail Blazers secured four "good wins" in the last week alone, besting the Pacers, Rockets, Lakers and Jazz thanks in large part to never-before-seen performances from Damian Lillard, who won Western Conference Player of the Week in back-to-back weeks. But the play of Hassan Whiteside, the addition of Trevor Ariza and the improvement of the bench has also seemed to have shaken the Trail Blazers out of a season-long funk.
So not only have the Trail Blazers moved up the standings -- they're 1.5 games behind the Grizzlies for the eight-seed with 32 games to play -- they've also received a bounce in the weekly power rankings. Observe...
• The panel of voters at ESPN have the Trail Blazers at No. 15 this week, four spots better than last week...
Beginning with his career-high 61 points on Jan. 20, Damian Lillard's past six games look like this: 61, 47, 50, 36, 48, 51. With 61 assists. Lillard isn't on another planet right now; he's in another galaxy. Nobody cooks like Lillard. You have to pick him up somewhere between the parking garage and the locker room, or he'll pop you for a 37-footer. But even more than the ridiculous raw numbers, Portland's record in the past six games looks like this: WLWWWW. Lillard is doing what it takes to get his team back in the postseason conversation, as the Blazers are now just 1.5 games back of the 8-seed.
The folks at ESPN have the Trail Blazers behind the Grizzlies at No. 14 and ahead of the Spurs at No. 16.
• John Shuhmann at NBA.com also has the Trail Blazers at No. 15 this week, a three-spot improvement over last week...
Pace: 101.3 (11) OffRtg: 111.7 (7) DefRtg: 112.7 (26) NetRtg: -1.1 (16)
Damian Lillard has had a six-game stretch like we've never seen before, even admitting, "I've never been in this type of rhythm in my life." Really, he was draining 3-pointers over Rudy Gobert standing on the 3-point line like the two-time Defensive Player of the Year was 6-1 instead of 7-1.
Over the last two weeks (it's safe to assume that a second straight Player of the Week award is coming), Lillard has averaged 48.8 points, shooting 52% inside the arc, 57% from beyond it, and 92% at the free throw line. Also...
1. The Blazers have gone 4-1 against teams with winning records over the two weeks, having won just five games over the 13 teams that have winning records prior to that.
2. Three of the last four opponents have top-10 defenses, and the Blazers have scored 128 points per 100 possessions over those three games.
3. Over the two weeks, the Blazers have climbed from 14th to seventh in offensive efficiency and from 11th to ninth place in the Western Conference.
They still have all three meetings with the eighth-place Grizzlies (Lillard vs. Morant feels like a must-see match) remaining. But before they get to the first one (next Wednesday), the Blazers have three more meetings with good teams and a big game against the 10th-place Spurs.
Schuhmann has the Trail Blazers behind the Grizzlies at No. 14 and ahead of the Spurs at No. 16.
• Colin Ward-Henninge at CBS Sports has the Trail Blazers at No. 14 this week, a six-spot improvement over last week...
There are simply no adjectives to describe what Damian Lillard is doing right now. Over his last six games he's averaging 48.8(!) points, 10.2 assists, and 7.2 rebounds. He's also made over eight 3-pointers per game over that stretch on a ridiculous 57 percent shooting from beyond the arc -- many of them WAY beyond the arc. Most importantly, the Blazers have won five of those six games and are suddenly just a game and a half back of the final Western Conference playoff spot. In case anyone had forgotten, Lillard is proving once again that he is a special, special player.
Ward-Henninge has the Trail Blazers behind the Thunder at No. 13 and ahead of the Grizzlies at No. 15.
• Tommy Beer at Rotoworld joins the list of power rankers that have the Trail Blazers at No. 15 this week, four spots better than last week...
Hmmm, which Blazer should we highlight here? Over the Blazers' last six games, Damian Lillard is averaging a mind-boggling 48.8 points, 10.2 assists, 7.2 rebounds and 8.2 made 3-pointers while shooting 55% from the floor, 57% from downtown and 92% from the free-throw stripe.
Beer has the Trail Blazers behind the Grizzlies at No. 14 and ahead of the Spurs at No. 16.
• Zach Harper at The Athletic has the Trail Blazers at No. 14, five spots better than last week...
Lillard has 47 points or more in five of his last six games. The one game he didn’t hit that mark? He only scored 36 points. During this six-game stretch Dame has averaged 48.8 points, 10.2 assists, 7.2 rebounds and only 3.0 turnovers. He’s taking 28.0 shots per game and has a true shooting of 74.5 percent. Most important? Lillard’s production has resulted in five victories in six games. Not too long ago, I wrote in this space that Lillard’s production was being wasted because he didn’t have enough help this season. Now? The Blazers are 1.5 games out of the eighth seed in the West and Dame is moving his way into MVP voting, even with a losing record so far.
Harper has the Trail Blazers behind the Pacers at No. 13 and in front of the Pelicans at No. 15.
• Phil Watson at Hoops Habit has the Trail Blazers at No. 19 this week, two spots better than last week...
Don’t look now, but here come the Portland Trail Blazers and their patented middle-of-the-season run. The Blazers have won four straight games after a 4-0 week, matching their longest run of the season. But while the first win streak came against the Suns, Warriors, Magic and Timberwolves, this one included Indiana, Houston, the Lakers and Utah. Yeah. That’s pretty good.
As for Damian Lillard, Dame Dolla has been nothing but a cheat code over the last couple of weeks. In four games last week, his first career triple-double against the Rockets on Wednesday counted as his off night because he only scored 36 points … only 36 points.
He averaged a Wilt Chamberlain-esque 46.3 points per game over the four games, also getting 11.5 assists, 6.8 rebounds and 1.3 steals in 38.6 minutes a night. He shot 57.3 percent overall and a ridiculous, ludicrous, are-you-kidding-me 58.8 percent on 12.8 3-point attempts a game.
Watson has the Trail Blazers behind the Nets at No. 18 and ahead of the Grizzlies at No. 20.
• Michael Shapiro at Sports Illustrated has the Trail Blazers at No. 14 this week, one spot better than last week...
Has Damian Lillard’s hot stretch changed Portland’s deadline thinking? What was previously a lost year has become a furious fight for a playoff spot, and the Blazers still need an upgrade at the four. Kevin Love feels like a pipe dream. Danilo Gallinari would be a terrific fit.
Shapiro has the Trail Blazers behind the Thunder at No. 13 and ahead of the Grizzlies at No. 15.
• Grant Hughes at Bleacher Report has the Trail Blazers at No. 16 this week, three spots better than last week...
Damian Lillard "only" managed 36 points in Portland's 125-112 win over the Houston Rockets on Wednesday, a slow night for a guy whose previous three scoring totals were 61, 47 and 50. But the meager 36 points came in Dame's first career triple-double, so nobody will accuse him of slacking.
Things got back to normal when he scored 48 points in the Blazers' 127-119 win over the Los Angeles Lakers in L.A. on Friday. Then, he put up 51 more to beat the Jazz on Saturday. Add all that up and Lillard averaged 48.8 points and 10.2 assists over a six-game span.
That's not something that happens. Like, ever.
Hughes has the Trail Blazers behind the Pelicans at No. 15 and ahead of the Spurs at No. 17.