PORTLAND, Ore. — The Blazers' impressive play of late hasn't gone unnoticed.
Since the All-Star break, Portland has the third-best record in the NBA at 15-5. Only the Golden State Warriors (16-5) and San Antonio Spurs (16-4) have been better. The Blazers rank in the Top 10 in offensive rating (third) and defensive rating (10th) during that same span. Their net rating ranks third behind, you guessed it, the Spurs and Warriors.
The Blazers are on a six-game winning streak and swept their three-game homestand last week against the Nuggets, Rockets and Suns.
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Now, for the first time since early in the season, the Blazers have moved into the Top 10 in a couple NBA pundits' power rankings and are just outside the Top 10 in all the rest.
CBS Sports: Blazers move up two spots to No. 7
Excerpt: The loss of Jusuf Nurkic would be a problem, were it not for how close they already are to a playoff spot. They should be able to secure the 8th seed by the end of the week. The bigger question is how long it will take for Nurkic to get back. Two previous leg injuries took him longer than expected to recover from in Denver.
ESPN: Blazers move up one to No. 9
Excerpt: From the high of joining Charles Barkley and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on the short list of players to post at least 30 points and 15 boards in his first-ever game against his former team -- in a game with such huge playoff implications to boot -- Jusuf Nurkic didn't even have 72 hours to enjoy the damage he inflicted upon the Nuggets' playoff hopes. A fractured leg will cost Nurkic the rest of the regular season and presumably rule him out of the Blazers' expected first-round series against Golden State, further weakening a frontcourt rotation that already had lost big men Ed Davis and Festus Ezeli to season-ending surgeries. But let's put Portland's panic that inevitably stems from losing Nurkic on hold. The Blazers have to find a way to enjoy what they've achieved amid the injuries, hauling themselves all the way back to .500 after falling to 24-35 at their worst, with Damian Lillard leading the way in March (29.1 PPG). For the second successive season, this has been a different team in the season's second half. Portland is 35-47 in the first half of the past two seasons, compared 47-29 thereafter.
NBC Sports: Blazers move up two spots to No. 11
Excerpt: Portland has been the second best team in the NBA in its last 10 games, going 9-1 and outscoring opponents by 12.1 points per 100 possessions. They should hold off Denver and get the eighth seed. That said, the injury that ended Jusuf Nurkic’s season and will keep him out of the playoffs is a real blow (and ends any already long-shot dreams of a first-round upset).
NBA.com: Blazers move up one to No. 11
Excerpt: Jusuf Nurkic played the best game of his career in the biggest game of the year, leading the Blazers to a crucial win over his former team with 33 points and 15 rebounds on Tuesday. Nurkic was lost for at least the rest of the regular season with a leg fracture on Thursday, but the Blazers have continued to put distance between themselves and the Nuggets. They've won six straight games, are a league-best 14-3 since March 1, and have reached .500 for the first time since they were 12-12. With Thursday's victory over Houston, they've won five of their last seven games against teams above .500, having been 6-21 against that group previously. With three games left against teams over .500 (Utah and San Antonio) and three against teams below (Minnesota and New Orleans), their magic number (combination of Blazers wins and Nuggets losses) to clinch a playoff spot is four.
Fox Sports: Blazers move up one to No. 12
Excerpt: Jusuf Nurkic was the piece the Blazers were missing. We just didn't know it until we got to see it in action. He's the perfect complement to Portland's dynamic backcourt, giving the Blazers a much-needed inside presence on offense and improving rim protection on the other end. We won't go so far as to say Portland is a threat to the Warriors, but Nurkic's presence could make a potential first-round matchup between those two teams rather interesting. (These rankings were released on Friday, March 31, before everyone found out about Nurkic's injury).
Sports Illustrated: Blazers stay put at No. 14
Excerpt: Portland’s triumphant run in the West's playoff race has been marred somewhat by Jusuf Nurkic’s minorly broken leg. Get well soon, Nurk.
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