Power Rankings » Beginning To Slide In Week 5

By Desmond Johnson

Despite notching their first road win of the season over the now 1-12 Rockets, the Trail Blazers have continued to inch down the power rankings thanks to three more road losses to round out a four-game road trip. This brings the Blazers’ road record to an uninspiring 1-7, while home wins on either end of the road trip have brought the Blazers’ home record to 6-1 on a six-game home winning streak. This tale of two teams has kept the Blazers hovering around .500 all season. Dame touched on this disparity after Monday’s win over Toronto in Portland. 

"When we play at home, we're a different team than when we play on the road. That's just the truth. And I'm not sure what it is," Lillard said. "I think when you're at home there's just a level of comfort and support that you feel from the fans. But at the same time, we're NBA players; We play on the road a lot."

Lillard is right. It’s been hard to pinpoint the source of the team’s struggles on the road this season. Some have pointed to the adoption of a new ball and changes to officiating. Rookie head coach Chauncey Billups continues to implement and refine a new system. Dame has been playing through an irritated core injury. But these serve as little more than excuses, something that Larry Nance Jr. alluded to after Monday’s game in Portland, will not help this team win.

 “This league is not easy. No one’s going to feel sorry for us. Games are not going to slow down. The competition is not going to get any easier,” Nance said.

The Blazers' upcoming schedule is a tough one, with games against the Bulls, Sixers, and Nuggets slated for this week. Fortunately for Portland, 18 of their next 25 games are home at the Moda Center, where they’ve had the league’s second-best offensive rating to go with a top-10 defensive rating. Provided they can keep up this pace, the Blazers should be able to climb the power rankings in the coming weeks despite a recent slide.

Here’s where the Blazers sit in the fifth edition of the weekly power rankings

The Blazers got their first road win of the season on Friday, getting good minutes from their bench to outlast the (now) 1-12 Rockets. Nassir Little had such a good start (3-for-4 in the first quarter), they drew up the first play of the second quarter for him. And really, with his versatility, if Little can build upon these last couple of games, the Blazers will be a better team in the long run.

Of course, nobody’s more important to this team than Damian Lillard, who missed the Blazers’ loss in Denver on Sunday with the abdomen injury that’s been bothering him. The Blazers got blasted by the Nuggets, in what was the most efficient game for any team this season (124 points on just 91 possessions) and the third time on the four-game trip that they allowed more than 120 per 100.

Good news: The Blazers now begin a four-game homestand, and they play 19 of their next 26 games at the Moda Center, where they’re 5-1. The first game is Monday and Lillard’s status is unknown, but after Wednesday, the Blazers will play just four games over a stretch of 11 days.

Schuhmann has the Trail Blazers behind the Pacers at No. 19 and ahead of the Grizzlies at No. 21.

As if the Blazers didn't already have enough to deal with, Damian Lillard is nursing a lower abdominal injury that kept him out on Sunday. Without their star, the Blazers lost 124-95 in Denver. Portland has dropped three of its past four games by eight or more points. Off the court, the Blazers are dealing with the investigation into general manager Neil Olshey. Rookie head coach Chauncey Billups has his work cut out for him.

The folks at ESPN have the Trail Blazers behind the Celtics at No. 19 and ahead of the Hawks at No. 21.

How did the chaos hit the Portland Trail Blazers? The chaos for the Portland Trail Blazers extends far beyond the court. The team has launched an investigation into itself. A lead business executive resigned in the process, but the focus is Neil Olshey. Maybe this is getting ahead of a story in light of the accusations in Phoenix. Or maybe this is a nod to Damian Lillard after he made it very public he didn’t want to leave after all. Regardless, the Blazers are a bit of a circus off the court and struggling to beat non-losing teams on the court. But at least they seem to have Lillard’s vote of confidence for now, and he’s kind of painted himself into a corner of not changing his mind on this.

Why is the team here this week? A 1-3 week for the Blazers, and their only win came against the worst team in our rankings. Three losses against three playoff teams is a tough look.

Harper has the Trail Blazers behind the Knicks at No. 17 and ahead of the Raptors at No. 19.

 Damian Lillard missed Sunday night’s loss with an abdominal injury and despite stellar play from his backcourt mates CJ McCollum and Anfernee Simons (a springy Most Improved Player/Sixth Man of the Year candidate), nothing really matters here unless Lillard is healthy enough to look like a top-10 force of nature. That hasn’t really happened yet this season.

Mannix has the Trail Blazers behind the Grizzlies at No. 21 and ahead of the Thunder at No. 23.

The Trail Blazers’ issues extend beyond the court. Portland opened an investigation into president of basketball operations and general manager Neil Olshey earlier this month following allegations of workplace misconduct. But the front office turmoil didn’t stop there. CEO and president of business operations Chris McGowan recently decided to step down, and though he said the timing of his decision had nothing to do with the investigation, it is another worrying sign for a franchise that desperately needs stability. 

Irving has the Trail Blazers behind the Hornets at No. 18 and ahead of the Grizzlies at No. 20.

 

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