While you can never be sure, it looks like the Portland Trail Blazers may be metaphorically getting back on track as of late. During their last four games, the Blazers have notched four wins, against the Hawks, the Bulls, the Grizzlies, and the Lakers.
Two of those games were against teams that are currently scrapping for a place in the playoffs (the Grizzlies and the Hawks). One was against an already out team that has relished in playing spoilsport for playoff bound teams (the Lakers). And finally, the game against the Bulls featured a beat down against the then third seed in the East, and one of the hottest teams as of late.
No one will say that these four teams were cream of the crop, but none of them were “gimmes,” or games that were expected to be a cakewalk. There are no easy games in the NBA, but truthfully, if you catch a team that is already out of the playoff race at the end of the season, the full effort may not be there.
Not only have the Blazers taken care of business, but the manner in which they have is even more impressive. During these last four games, the Blazers have won by margins of 15, 17, 7, and 12. The lone single digit game, against Memphis, arguably should not have been that close, as the lead was far greater before the bench sadly yet typically squandered it.
Perhaps the most pleasant surprise is the Blazers’ production on defense. During this winning streak, opponents are averaging 92.2 points per game. For a team that is surrendering 102.6 per game over the course of the season, this is an astronomical improvement.
Again, context must be taken into consideration, and no one will ever call any of these four teams an offensive juggernaut. You can only play who the schedule sets in front of you, so getting caught up in such qualifiers can get messy. Far more important are those margins of victory, which are just downright impressive.
The advanced stats back this up, as during these games, the Blazers’ offensive rating is 111.8 and their defensive rating is 96.8. This is a differential of positive 15, which is just ludicrous. Obviously the team cannot be expected to keep this pace up for the rest of the season, but right before the playoffs, this is an encouraging thing to see.
This is especially true with the team’s defense. I have always firmly believed that strong defense is what can take you far in the playoffs, so to see at least a little bit of life on that end is reassuring, since the playoffs are rapidly approaching. The team’s defensive rating improvement of nearly eight points shows that something is working, and if all goes well, hopefully this level of defense can keep on rolling right into the playoffs.
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