The Portland Trail Blazers had a relatively easy week when it came to their opponents, but they did exactly what they were supposed to do: beat inferior competition.
In Week 18, Portland faced the Denver Nuggets twice and the Brooklyn Nets once. Beating those two squads is not a surprise, but beating them with defense is what sticks out the most.
Most fans will look at this past week’s scores and point out that Portland averaged 108.7 points per game. However, that number is a bit misleading, as the team racked up 124 points in a single outing against the Nets.
What should be a bigger topic of discussion is the 90.3 points per game allowed. It hasn’t been said all season that the Blazers were able to win consistently with defense, but in a week where injuries gave reserves a chance to shine, everybody stepped up, giving the team hope that depth won’t be a problem once the playoffs finally arrive.
Feb. 25 @ Denver
The Blazers have struggled mightily at the Pepsi Center in recent years, but a strong showing from Damian Lillard put Portland on the right side of a 100-95 contest when the clock struck zero.
In 37 minutes, Damian Lillard recorded 31 points, nine assists and seven rebounds. Even more importantly, he got it done in the clutch, hitting big shots late to help seal the deal.
The other name worth noting is Robin Lopez. The 7-footer had 12 points and 10 rebounds, but his seven blocks are what people will remember when thinking back on this one.
The Feb.-25 win gave Portland a 3-0 series lead over the Nuggets, and the team would have a chance to go for the sweep just four days later.
Feb. 26 vs. Brooklyn
This one was every bit as ugly as the 124-80 score indicated.
Despite not having LaMarcus Aldridge, Meyers Leonard, Thomas Robinson or Joel Freeland, the Blazers came out and dominated with small ball. More specifically, the bench got a chance to show what it could do, and simply put: It put the Nets to shame when it was all said and done.
The story in this one, though, was Will Barton. The seldom-used swingman reminded us what he’s capable of, scoring 20 points on 8-of-13 shooting in 28 minutes. He also pulled down 11 rebounds, had four assists and was a plus-39 in the plus-minus category — the top mark of anyone who saw the floor.
The Blazers led by 23 entering the final period, but don’t think they showed any mercy, as they outscored Brooklyn 42-21 in the final 12 minutes to give them a 44-point win.
March 1 vs. Denver
Get out the brooms, ladies and gentlemen. This win gave Portland its first series sweep over Denver for the first time since the 1999 season.
With LaMarcus Aldridge and Meyers Leonard back in the lineup, the Blazers came out ready to keep the winning streak going. Robin Lopez shined with 18 points and nine rebounds, and sticking with the theme from earlier, the team’s defense shined, topping the Nuggets 102-96.
At this point in the season, Portland is fighting for a top-three seed out West. The competition is about to get a whole lot tougher with a brutal road trip around the corner, but when it comes down to it, their current six-game winning streak will give them the momentum they need to be competitive against any team in the entire Association.