Nearing Last Season’s Scorching Start, Blazers Have Plenty to Prove
Monday, December 08, 2014
Portland has won at least 16 of its first 20 games for the fifth time in franchise history (2013-14, 1998-99, 1990-91, 1977-78).— Trail Blazers PR (@TrailBlazersPR) December 8, 2014
Might as well mark it down.
As of Monday morning, the Pistons (3-18) and Timberwolves (4-15) are the second and fourth worst teams in the NBA. The Blazers should roll.
They simply need to take care of business--pretty much just what they've been doing all season.
But before we count ALL the chickens and blurt on about what matching last year's wild start means, it's worth taking a look back at the 16 wins that got them here. The Blazers are, after all, one quarter of the way through with the season.
In looking back at the Blazers first 20 games I cataloged wins (and losses) thusly:
(2) WINS OVER PLAYOFF TEAMS: Dallas, Cleveland*
Quite simply, against a worthy, playoff-bound opponent at full-strength, the Blazers emerged victorious. Margin or style of victory--whether blowout or backing into it--is almost inconsequential. Simply beating such quality opponents is a marker of the Blazers' success.
*Portland's November 4 win over Cleveland is diminished somewhat as LeBron James and his new-look Cavaliers were very much in disarray at the time. How the Blazers fair in Cleveland on January 28th will be a much better indicator of the Cavaliers true strength.
(3) LOSSES TO PLAYOFF TEAMS: Golden State, Los Angeles Clippers, Memphis Grizzlies
Flip it: Portland were bested by a quality foe who earned it.
(3) #BLESSED: Oklahoma City, Cleveland*, Chicago
The Blazers beat an otherwise playoff bound team hobbled by injury, or other fortunate circumstance. On opening night the Trail Blazers were pitted against an Oklahoma City team playing without Kevin Durant for the first time in ages. When the Bulls visited Portland they were without starters Derrick Rose and Pau Gasol, while Taj Gibson left in the second half.
*Cleveland, for the reasons cited above, must be mentioned here as well.
(9) TAKING CANDY FROM BABIES: Denver (Nov. 9), Denver (Nov. 12), Brooklyn, Boston, Philadelphia, Charlotte (Nov 26), Minnesota, Indiana, New York
The Blazers led these outclassed lambs to the slaughter.
(2) TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS: New Orleans, Denver (Dec. 2)
The Blazers beat a team who they were favored to, but on the right night--and maybe in their own gym--could be dangerous. New Orleans' Anthony Davis had a monster game in Portland but the was doomed by his teammates and the Blazers' prevailed. And while Denver was a pushover in the two games in November, they'd righted the ship substantially since.
(1) INCREDIBLE COMEBACK: Charlotte (Nov 11)
The 5-15 Hornets have been a miserable disappointment this season, yet they managed to get up a whopping 23 points before the Blazers stormed back at the Moda Center. And while Portland never should've fallen so far behind, any such comeback is worth mentioning on its own terms.
(1) BAD LOSS: Sacramento
In their second game of the year and first game on the road the Blazers hadn't quite found their stride. Despite the incremental growth of DeMarcus Cousins and the 10-10 Sacramento Kings, this is one Portland would like to have back.
Looking back a hiccup emerges: while the Blazers have taken care of business, handling most of what schedule's thrown at them, they are thus far light on wins against top-tier opponents.