What do the Trail Blazers like about the first half of their season?
A Half Way Look
The Trail Blazers improved to 24-17 on the season at the halfway mark as Portland beats New York, 111-101 on Monday night.
With their 24-17 overall record, it is the Blazers best record through 41 games since the 2014-15 season. They were 30-11 that season.
What has stood out to you through the first 41 games of the season? Hit me up on Twitter @JamieHudsonNBCS and let me know!
The Blazers ball movement? Portland ruining LeBron James’ debut with the Lakers? CJ McCollum putting the rookie Donte Divincenzo on skates? The list goes on…
There were a lot of fun moments in the first half of the season that’s for sure!
But, what themes have stood out the most to the Blazers themselves? Let's find out...
Stotts happy on good position in the West
Portland shares the same record with San Antonio and currently sits in the seventh spot in the Western Conference standings with a 24-17 record.
Head coach Terry Stotts feels with the difficulty of the schedule through the first half of the season, Portland is in a good spot in such a tight West.
“I think when you look in the context of the Western Conference and how difficult a race it is, you know, it’s a good position to be in. We’ve lost 17 games and you think we could’ve won a lot of those, so those are disappointing… I think we had the toughest schedule in the league for the first 41 games and to come out 24-17… we’re in a good place,” Stotts said.
According to TeamRankings.com, the Blazers have the third most difficult schedule through the first 41 games. Utah has the toughest schedule followed by Houston.
In the West, the number one team and the eighth team are separated by just 5.5 games right now.
That ball movement!
Jake Layman is coming off his first double-double of his career in Monday night’s win over the Knicks. Layman finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds in 22 minutes of action.
For Layman, the biggest aspect of the team that has stood out to his at this point in the season is the Blazers sharing the ball.
“Overall, our ball movement has been great this year. I mean, our guys are really trying to share the ball and get everybody involved,” Layman said.
And, how could you forget the nine-pass possession that led to a Layman corner three-pointer in the first quarter against the Wizards. That play is definitely a top moment from the first half of the season!
Nurk being on a tear
A big reason for the Blazers positive momentum swing has been the dominant play of Jusuf Nurkic.
Nurkic has scored 20+ points in four straight games and six of his last seven games.
“Nurk has been killing. He’s been a beast for awhile now,” Lillard said after Saturday’s win over the Rockets.
While Meyers Leonard mentioned on Monday night that Nurk has been playing so well and is such a humble teammate.
“We have a very talented team, a very deep team… I think that each of us wants the next guy to do well. We just want to win. Nurk is on a tear right now, but everything you see is him talking about his teammates and Dame and CJ finding him on the floor,” Leonard said.
Trending in the right direction
After Monday’s win over New York, Portland improved to 4-1 in its last five games and have now won two straight after sweeping the Knicks for the second straight season.
“I think we’re in a position that a lot of teams would like to be in. I think we’re going to a good part of our schedule right now for the rest of this month. I like where we are. I like where our mentality is too,” Lillard said.
And, when looking at what other teams have been doing as of late, Lillard feels some teams are falling off, whereas the Blazers are trending upwards.
“I think we’re just trending in the right direction. You see some teams who are definitely in the mix, but, you know, they’ve been dropping one here, dropping one there, a loss here… They’re kind of fighting that battle of being consistent…. And dropping off. I think we’re going in the right direction, that’s all we can be concerned with,” Lillard said.
The Next 41 Games: Consistency and learning from mistakes
Jusuf Nurkic couldn’t believe the Blazers have played 41 games… “Half, already?” he smiled back after being asked what has stood out the most in the first half of the season.
He does however, know what the Blazers are going to work towards in the last 41 games of the season—Be more consistent.
“We know what we’re bringing to the table. We just need to be more consistent. I think just some games slipped from us. We gotta learn,” Nurkic said.
It’s been a challenging three-point shooting season thus far for CJ McCollum. McCollum is averaging 33% from three, down from his career average of 39%... but again, it's only 41 games.
“Each day brings on a new challenge… You just gotta be ready to go, understand that it’s a marathon. Just try to build each day and learn from mistakes and try not to let them happen again,” McCollum said.
Personal growth for Meyers
Fans, teammates, and the coaching staff have all talked about how this has been Meyers Leonard’s best season so far of his seven-year career.
For Meyers, he’s happy to be getting consistent minutes and helping his team out in anyway that he can.
“Personally, I guess, is it feels good to be in the rotation. It feels good to help the team win and I’m just gonna continue to work and do what I can to help us achieve that,” Leonard said.
In Leonard’s last 10 games, he is averaging 6.3 points per game on 48% shooting to go along with five rebounds in 18.1 minutes played.