The Portland Trail Blazers head into a more difficult part of their schedule Tuesday night in Los Angeles when they take on the Clippers.
Playing a major part of the first half of the season without injured Jusuf Nurkic and CJ McCollum, the Trail Blazers managed to climb to sixth in the tough Western Conference.
That’s the good news.
The bad news is that Portland is 1-6 against the five teams ahead of it. The Clippers and Utah Jazz are the next two games – both on the road – for the Trail Blazers.
Is this team, with Nurkic and McCollum back in action, ready for the challenges ahead?
“We’ve got a lot of stuff we need to work on to get more familiar with each other,” McCollum said. “Obviously, getting Nurk back. Myself, I’m 10 games in now, Norm’s three, four or five games in, so we're still adjusting.
“But we have time to kind of figure it out and luckily, we're in a position where we're in the playoffs and we could move up based on how we perform. So, I'm looking forward to seeing how we come along.
“But the regular season is the regular season. Playoffs are a completely different focus. A completely different attention to detail and I'm looking forward to seeing how we fare.”
Coach Terry Stotts is always reluctant to look beyond the next game but is expecting his team not to be outclassed in games against the upper echelon of the conference.
“Well, they're all going to be competitive,” he said. “None of them are going to be easy. I like our chances. I think we're moving in the right direction.
“In the West, it’s very competitive. You look at the how close it is. Obviously, Utah and Phoenix have separated themselves, but some of the other teams are going through their bouts with injuries.
“But honestly, I don't want to get too far ahead of myself, or ourselves. It’s important. The Clippers are a good test and then we'll worry about Utah after that and then go from there.
“But the best thing I can say is I think we're headed in the right direction. And we've been playing better.
“And we're getting healthy.”