POWER RANKINGS » Bouncing Back In Week 6 After Strong Homestand

By Desmond Johnson

Over the last three games, the Trail Blazers are shooting 50-40-90 splits as a squad and have reeled off three wins in a row. This marks the team’s longest winning streak of the season so far and comes on their longest homestand. The Blazers continue to defend home court, winning their last eight games at Moda Center to bring the home record to 8-1 (the best home start since the 2014-15 season). After a 1-3 road trip that saw Portland sliding down last week's rankings, this timely homestand provided an opportunity to test their homecourt prowess against some of the better teams in the East. Defeating the Raptors, Bulls, and Sixers already, Portland will finish the homestand Tuesday night with a chance to exact revenge against a Nuggets team that defeated them 124-95 in Denver on Nov. 14. 

Coming off of a season-high 39 points, Damian Lillard, who sat out the last game against the Nuggets with lower abdominal tendinopathy, appears to be good to go for Tuesday’s contest. A win against the Nuggets would put the Blazers two games above .500 for the first time this season and would catapult them up the standings to fifth or sixth in the West depending on the outcome of the Mavericks vs. Clippers game. This home streak has been necessary for Portland to stay near the middle of the pack in the standings, but they risk sliding right back down to .500 or below with another three-game road trip coming up. However, if Portland can bring any semblance of their homecourt energy with them on the road, they have an opportunity to separate themselves from the play-in pack.

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

The Blazers have been home, which means that the Blazers have been winning. Their first homestand of more than two games has turned into their first winning streak of more than two games, and it’s been their best three-game stretch of offense this season. They’ve scored more than 120 points per 100 possessions over the three games, and Damian Lillard has led the way, averaging 28.3 points and 8.3 assists. He hasn’t caught fire just yet and his true shooting percentage of 50.9% still ranks just 41st among 48 players with a usage rate of 25% or higher. But he’s not shooting nearly as poorly as he was in the first few weeks of the season.

Of course, the Blazers’ defense hasn’t been any better. And though Nassir Little and Larry Nance Jr. (16-for-21 shooting over the homestand) are doing good things off the bench, there have been some bad stretches with Lillard off the floor. So all three wins have been close and Lillard has averaged more than 39 minutes over the three, having missed the prior game with that abdominal injury.

The good news in that regard is that the Blazers are in the middle of a second straight two-day break. They finish their homestand with the Nuggets on Tuesday, and then they’re on the road again, having lost seven of their eight games away from the Moda Center.

Schuhmann has the Trail Blazers behind the Hornets at No. 15 and ahead of the Hawks at No. 17.

Damian Lillard was out for only a game and the Blazers were happy to have their star back. Lillard helped Portland to its best week with three wins over the Raptors, Bulls and Sixers. Lillard scored 39 in the win over the Sixers and now Portland is above .500. Coach Chauncey Billups' team will have a chance to atone for a 29-point loss to Denver with a rematch against the Nuggets on Tuesday before going on a three-game road swing.

The folks at ESPN have the Trail Blazers behind the Lakers at No. 16 and ahead of the Hawks at No. 18.

What should this team be thankful for? The role players so far. I don’t think the Portland Trail Blazers have a roster that can make them one of the elites of the West, but you can’t deny that guys such as Norman Powell, Jusuf Nurkic, Larry Nance Jr. and Anfernee Simons have been instrumental in keeping things afloat while they wait for Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum to regain their usual, consistent form. Powell has probably been the most impressive. That deadline deal with Toronto has been a win-win for both sides. Even with Lillard struggling, them on the floor together still keeps the Blazers scoring with just about everybody. They’re not going to fix their defense with this group, so Powell’s scoring barrages keep Portland afloat and then some.

Harper has the Trail Blazers behind the Celtics at No. 11 and ahead of the Hawks at No. 13.

Portland’s been among the NBA’s best teams on offense this season, logging a 110.9 offensive rating entering Sunday. But its defense has remained underwhelming, currently standing at No. 25 in the league at 110.4 points per 100 possessions. The Blazers’ three-point defense has been especially porous, allowing opposing teams to shoot 38.6% from three, the third-worst mark in the NBA heading into Sunday.

Mannix has the Trail Blazers behind the Mavericks at No. 14 and ahead of the Cavaliers at No. 16.

Most thankful for: The Larry Nance Jr. trade. Acquired as part of a three-team deal, the 28-year-old forward has quietly been the addition the Trail Blazers have been looking for. Portland's outscoring opponents by 6.1 points per 100 possessions with Nance on the court, giving him the second-best net rating on the team 

Irving has the Trail Blazers behind the Hornets at No. 16 and ahead of the Hawks at No. 18.

 

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