Trail Blazers

Trail Blazers' win streak aided by friendly schedule, but that is about to change

Trail Blazers

Sometimes the NBA schedule sets a team up for a nice winning streak. You know, a timely run of games against teams with a sub-.500 record. And a string of those games can often make a team look better than it actually is.

The Trail Blazers have been on one of those schedule-based win streaks, a six-gamer, stopped Saturday night by a team that the standings says they should have beaten.

But now that same schedule turns on them. The next three games will give a much better picture of what this team is really all about.

First, though, the winning streak. Over a nine-game span, Portland’s opponents had compiled a .461 win percentage. Only one of those teams -- Philadelphia, which the Blazers defeated twice -- is a playoff team.

But, while those wins over the 76ers were significant because Philadelphia leads the Eastern Conference, it must be pointed out that the East is once again the vastly inferior conference.

In fact, going into last night’s debacle vs. Washington, the Trail Blazers would have been just a game behind Philly for the top spot, had they been situated in the Eastern Conference.

 

Those games vs. inferior teams also gave a misleading picture of Portland’s defense. The Blazers did defend better against the worst of the teams they played. But not all the teams.

Portland’s defensive rating through those games would have been 22nd in the league -- still nothing to boast about. In fact, throughout that span it was the offense that was responsible for the wins.

The Trail Blazers’ offensive rating of 124.7 was off the charts and not sustainable for any great length of time.

Terrific three-point shooting was coming from just about everyone in uniform, to the point of silliness.

It all came crashing down Saturday night when the team launched a franchise-record 55 three-point shots and made only 19. Meanwhile, the Wizards were picking apart Portland’s defense to the tune of 56 points in the paint.

The starting Washington front court of Garrison Mathews, Rui Hachimura and Mortiz Wagner, with a lot of help from Robin Lopez off the bench, held its own while the Blazers tried in vain to throttle the paint penetrations of Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook.

But that game is gone now, a final chance to pick off a scheduling gift prior to a road trip that begins Monday night at Phoenix, which is battling Portland for the No, 4 spot in the West and has won eight of its last 10.

The Trail Blazers then have perhaps the league’s toughest second game of a back-to-back Tuesday at Denver, where the mile-high altitude usually makes it difficult for the visiting team.

After a couple of days off, the Trail Blazers will play the Lakers in Los Angeles, where they will catch a break, because Anthony Davis will be sitting out with a calf injury. Still, it’s the Lakers.

After that, the schedule provides another promise of a good run, with home games vs. Charlotte, Golden State and Sacramento to end the first half of the season.

It’s going to be an interesting, and revealing, stretch of games.