After a long homestand, the Portland Trail Blazers are on the road for 6 games in a trip that could define them or take them back to the pack.
The Portland Trail Blazers have just finished an up and down 5 game homestand (including 2 postponements), going 2-3, leaving them with a record of 9-7 and ranked 5th in the Western Conference.
However, the upcoming road trip will be a good indicator for fans regarding how the Blazers will cope without both CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic and uncovering the legitimacy of Portland’s championship aspirations.
In this piece, I will briefly go over each match-up and pose a key question that I have regarding the game.
Houston Rockets: A nationally televised game against the new-look Rockets is the first stop. The Blazers beat the Rockets in overtime earlier in the year thanks to 44 from the breaking out C.J. However, both teams look much different a month later thanks to trades and injury.
With a strong big man rotation of Christian Wood and DeMarcus Cousins, the key question for this match-up is, can the Blazers limit Houston’s offensive rebound numbers?
Chicago Bulls: Next stop, the Windy City. The Bulls handed the Blazers arguably their worst loss of the year at home, coming back from an 18 point quarter time deficit.
Chicago ranks 5th in the entire NBA in points per game with 116.1, so the big question is how Portland will stop the Bulls’ offensive firepower?
Milwaukee Bucks: From one top 5 offense to another, the Blazers will roll into Milwaukee with a massive task on their hands. The Bucks rank top 5 in points per game, field goal percentage, rebounds per game, and point differential.
This will be a massive challenge for the criticized Blazers’ defense, but I am curious to see the defensive plan against reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. How will the Blazers defend him?
Philadelphia 76ers: The Sixers hold the best record in the Eastern Conference and have seemingly put it together under the watchful eye of Doc Rivers. With Joel Embiid playing like an MVP candidate, it’s another tough test for Portland.
The key question for me in this game is how will Damian Lillard attack on offense? With the elite rim protection of Embiid down low and assuming the length and wingspan of Ben Simmons will be chasing him on the perimeter, how is Dame going to get his shot? He is one of the best scorers in the NBA, so I have no doubt he will, but I’m intrigued to see how
New York Knicks: The Blazers got away with a narrow victory against the Knicks the other night, winning 116-113. It took 39 points and some crazy shot-making from Damian Lillard to secure the win at home.
My question for the Madison Square Garden showdown is who’s going to stand up aside from Dame? The Knicks allow the fewest points of any team in the NBA, and with Lillard’s 39 at the front of their mind, I would expect close attention all night. So who can step up and take the attention off Lillard?
Charlotte Hornets: The last game of the road trip is in Charlotte against the young and exciting Hornets. After 5 consecutive games on the road and some brutal match-ups against some offensive powerhouses, fatigue could be a factor.
Considering this, my question for this game is, can the Blazers slow down the young and exciting Hornets? If players like LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier, and Miles Bridges start running and dunking, it will be hard to stop.
As you can see, this will be a tough road trip and will be a massive test for a defense that has been scrutinized and picked apart to start the season. In my opinion, if the Blazers can go 3-3 or better, they can count it as a successful trip in the absence of C.J and Nurk.