POWER RANKINGS » A Rough Go In Week 10

by Casey Holdahl
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A rough week for your Portland Trail Blazers. Losing to the Wizards in their lone home game over the course of a two-week span got a tough stretch off to a bad start, and things got worse with the team heading back out onto the road for games versus the Suns, Nuggets and Lakers, none of which when the Trail Blazers' way. You knew that the Trail Blazers' six-game win streak was helped by the level of competition they faced, but you would have hoped they could have followed that streak up with at least one win versus three Western Conference teams that they'll be jockeying for position with come the end of the season. 

That ultimately would not be the case, though they managed to get a three-game homestand leading into the All-Star break off to a better start with a win versus the Charlotte Hornets on Monday. And then it's an all-home back-to-back versus the Warriors and Kings before a week off, so it feels like a chance to build a little momentum before the start of the second half of the season -- which could also coincide with the return of CJ McCollum to the lineup. Following up a week of losses with three-straight wins going into a Blazers-filled All-Star Sunday would certainly put this team on a good footing on the precipice of what is sure to be a tough two and a half months of basketball. 

With that said, here is the final "first half" of the season edition of the weekly Power Rankings...

• The panel of voters at ESPN has the Trail Blazers at No. 10 this week, two spots worse than last week...

The bell has finally tolled for the Blazers, who through the adversity of the season had maintained a top-five status in the West. But now, with four straight losses -- all against quality teams, it should be noted -- there's a bit of urgency to jump-start the engine. Help is on the way, with both CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic set to be reevaluated for their return to play. McCollum stressed last week he isn't going to rush it, especially with the way the Blazers have stayed afloat in his absence. But as the second half opens, they're going to need him. 

The folks at ESPN have the Trail Blazers behind the Nuggets at No. 9 and ahead of the Warriors at No. 11. 

• John Schuhmann at NBA.com has the Trail Blazers at No. 13 this week, a five-spot drop from last week...

The Blazers’ offense has finally begun to feel the affects of CJ McCollum’s absence. After scoring more than 123 points per 100 possessions over a six-game winning streak, the Blazers have scored just 106 per 100 in losing four straight. Damian Lillard has remained pretty steady, but Gary Trent Jr. (who’s taken only 25% of his shots in the paint) and Robert Covington (who’s missed his last 10 3-point attempts) have both cooled off considerably, combining for an effective field goal percentage of just 41.3% (with just seven total free throw attempts) over the losing streak.

The Blazers rank 30th in ball movement (271 passes per 24 minutes of possession) and 29th in player movement (10.5 miles traveled per 24 minutes of possession), according to Second Spectrum tracking. And when the offense has an extended scoreless streak (like six straight possessions as their game in Denver got away on Tuesday), it can certainly look stagnant. Portland is now 2-7 (0-4 without McCollum) in games played between the top eight teams in the West, with one more game within the group before the break. With the Blazers and Warriors having split two games in San Francisco in early January, their meeting in Portland on Wednesday will determine the tiebreaker.

Schuhmann has the Trail Blazers behind the Heat at No. 12 and ahead of the Raptors at No. 14. 

• Colin Ward-Henninger has the Trail Blazers at No. 12 this week, six spots worse than last week...

Overachievers for the past couple of weeks, the Blazers might finally be running out of gas. They lost tough road games to the Suns, Nuggets and Lakers this week, as Damian Lillard did his best to will his team to victory with 28 points and nine assists per game. Portland simply couldn't get stops against three good teams, and its offense couldn't keep pace.

Ward-Henninger has the Trail Blazers behind the Nuggets at No. 11 and ahead of the Knicks at No. 13. 

• Mo Dakhil at Bleacher Report has the Trail Blazers at No. 12 this week, a four-spot drop from last week...

After going on a surprising six-game winning streak, the Blazers have fallen on some hard times. Portland ended the week on a four-game losing streak. Even though the defense has slipped a bit, it is small compared to the fall off in offensive production Portland is suffering from.

The Blazers' offensive rating has fallen 10 points to 105.9 during the losing streak from their 115.9 rating before this downturn trend. A big issue has been their three-point shooting taking a dive from their 38.9 percent to 32.6 percent. This Portland team relies heavily on outside shooting considering it scores the league's fewest points in the paint.

To get back in the win column, the Blazers will need to find their shooting stroke.

Dakhil has the Trail Blazers behind the Raptors at No. 11 and ahead of the Mavericks at No. 13. 

• Corey Rausch at Hoops Habit also has the Trail Blazers at No. 12 this week, five spots worse than last week...

The issues we were worried about nearly a month ago when the injury bug first bit the Portland Trail Blazers reared their head this week when the Blazers went up against three other Western Conference playoff teams.

The only positive thing to say about the dismantling they suffered against the Phoenix Suns was how good Nassir Little looked. Little had 18 points and five rebounds while only attempting seven shots. The only Blazer to score more was Damian Lillard but he needed 17 shots to get to those 24 points.

Little came back down to earth against the Nuggets, only attempting one shot. This time it was Carmelo Anthony off the bench to take over, dropping 24 points on his former team. Then against the Lakers, there was no one off the bench that stepped up. It was Damian Lillard against the world.

Do not jump off this team of yet. They have a slightly easier week ahead and then will benefit greatly from the (far too short) All-Star break. CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic will be back at some point after that. Any weeks where Lillard is his normal superhuman self, it does not entirely matter. This was just a rough week.

Rausch has the Trail Blazers behind the Nuggets at No. 11 and ahead of the Spurs at No. 13. 

• Adam Caparell at Complex has the Trail Blazers at No. 8 this week, one spot BETTER than their last ranking... 

Four straight losses (Wizards, Suns, Nuggets, and Lakers) would normally mean dropping a team out of the top 10, but I still think the Blazers have a better squad than the Spurs, Nuggets, and Warriors. And for the one millionth time, let us remind everyone that they’re doing this without CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic. The Blazers will be a pest in the Western Conference playoffs.    

Caparell has the Trail Blazers behind the 76ers at No. 7 and ahead of the Nugges at No. 9. 

• Zach Harper at The Athletic has the Trail Blazers at No. 14 this week, seven spots worse than last week...

The Blazers faced a string of good opponents this week and now find themselves on a four-game losing streak. Need to see them rebound with Golden State, Charlotte and Sacramento all at home before the break.

If you're going to wait until Tuesday to post your power rankings, you should at least update them with the latest results. 

Harper has the Trail Blazers behind the Raptors at No. 13 and ahead of the Celtics at No. 15. 

• Brad Rowland at UPROXX has Portland at No. 14 this week, a two-spot drop from last week...

Portland stopped the bleeding of a four-game losing streak with a solid home win over Charlotte on Monday. That avoided a deeper fall in the pecking order, but they were due for some regression after a wild run of wins to reach 18-10 overall.

See, that wasn't so hard.

Rowland has the Trail Blazers behind the Spurs at No. 13 and ahead of Wednsday's opponent, the Warriors, at No. 15.  

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