The Trail Blazers beat the Milwaukee Bucks 91-82 tonight, completing the sweep of their four game road trip. This brings their record to an astounding 10-2, good for third best in the entire NBA, as they return home after their 8th straight victory.
The only teams ahead of Portland in the standings are San Antonio and Indiana, who have each won 10 games themselves, but with only 1 loss to Portland’s 2. Consider the company the Trail Blazers keep at this very moment; both are teams that took the Miami Heat to seven games in the 2013 NBA playoffs.
There are two ways to spin this:
#1) The Trail Blazers have exceeded all expectations and become a top-tier team. Their 8 game winning streak proves that their current level of play is far from aberration, and that it is sustainable moving forward. While April is a long way off, we are likely looking at a playoff team in the Western Conference.
#2) The Trail Blazers have benefitted from an easy schedule and will return to Earth shortly. Their victory over the Milwaukee Bucks is just the latest in a string of ‘gimmes.’ All this proves is that Portland is better than the worst; not that they are up there with the best.
The truth lies between the two. I believe the Trail Blazers’ production will taper against tougher opponents, but not result in guaranteed losses. Their 103.8 point average will dip against the defenses of Chicago and Miami and, sure, they’ll have to mark a few in the loss column, but they’ve proven capable of winning the games they should—and that’s how you reach the NBA playoffs.
On an individual level, I would like to recognize the play of Wesley Matthews. He can no longer be considered filler in the starting lineup. Matthews is just as much a core player as Lillard, Aldridge, and Batum at this point. How many teams do you see with four high-level starters not reach the post-season? His improvement gives the Trail Blazers a sense of completion they have missed in the past.
So, are the Trail Blazers the real deal? They have the third best record in the NBA right now, four starters worthy of league-wide acclaim, a bench (can’t forget the bench) deeper than Latrell Sprewell’s debt, and the undivided attention of the basketball nation. You decide. The Portland Trail Blazers take on the Chicago Bulls in the Moda Center on Friday.