Blazers' defense slipping: NBA power rankings

PORTLAND, Ore. — The high of a 4-1 road trip crashed quickly last week after the Blazers played two of their worst games of the season in losses to the Milwaukee Bucks and New Orleans Pelicans at the Moda Center.

Portland's offense, which hummed with efficiency for the first three games after Pat Connaughton was inserted into the starting lineup, fell apart in the Blazers' first two games back at home, averaging just 100.8 points per 100 possessions.

Portland's fourth-ranked defense, which has been a model of consistency all season, is slumping. Against the Bucks and Pelicans, the Blazers allowed 111 points per 100 possessions, which would rank last in the NBA this season.

In fact, over the past five games, the Blazers are allowing 108.2 points per 100 possessions, almost eight points more than their season average. Though Portland is 3-2 in the past five games, they've allowed more than 100 points in four of the five games, including 125 against the Nets and 123 against the Pelicans, who were playing without leading scorer Anthony Davis.

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The Blazers are back at the Moda Center on Tuesday night against the Washington Wizards (12-11), who are still without star point guard John Wall. The Wizards are coming off a 116-69 loss against the Utah Jazz on Monday night and have lost six of nine.

After Tuesday's game, the Blazers are off until Saturday, when James Harden, Chris Paul and the Houston Rockets (18-4) visit the Moda Center. The Rockets have won seven in a row and 13 of 14.

Here's a look at where the Blazers stand in the latest batch of NBA power rankings.

RANKINGS RELEASED MONDAY

ESPN: Blazers rank No. 11

Last week's ranking: 8

Portland's neighbors: Denver Nuggets at 10, Milwaukee Bucks at 12

What they wrote: Even after getting touched up by Boogie Cousins for 38 points Saturday night, the Blazers rank fourth in defensive efficiency, and no team allows a lower field goal percentage in the restricted area (54.1 percent).

CBS Sports: Blazers rank No. 9

Last week's ranking: 7

Portland's neighbors: Detroit Pistons at 8, Washington Wizards at 10

What they wrote: It's really weird to see Portland have such a great defense and a terrible offense. They have an Effective Field Goal Percentage of 49.2 percent, which is laughably low for a team that in previous years was so strong.

Sports Illustrated: Blazers rank No. 10

Last week's ranking: 11

Portland's neighbors: Philadelphia 76ers at 9, Washington Wizards at 11

What they wrote: Let’s take you back to Oct. 23’s NBA Power Rankings: Portland currently ranks in the top three in net rating, but they’ve beaten up on the Pacers and Suns to get there. They certainly impressed against the Bucks, but I’m not quite sure they’re on that level yet. Side note: Is Meyers Leonard not a thing anymore? Two straight games with a DNP-CD. We need to get him back in the lineup for his annual battle with DeMarcus Cousins. Well, guess what. Good ol’ Meyers got back in there after a brief hiatus and not a moment too soon. He went to WORK against his rival. When these guys get together, magic happens.

USA Today: Blazers rank No. 11

Last week's ranking: 9

Portland's neighbors: Denver Nuggets at 12, Washington Wizards at 10

What they wrote: The Blazers, who were 21st in the NBA last season with a defensive rating of 107.8, rank fourth on that end of the floor this season, allowing 100.3 points per 100 possessions. Why the sudden change? "We've been consistent with it from opening night," coach Terry Stotts said last week. "We've only had a couple games that were poor defensive games. That's the biggest thing. I think the players' mentality, the pride that they're taking into it, has been good."

NBA.com: Blazers rank No. 13

Last week's ranking: 9

Portland's neighbors: Oklahoma City Thunder at 14, Utah Jazz at 12

What they wrote: After a 4-1 trip, the Blazers returned home, got some days off (they're playing just four games in a 13-day stretch), and got Al-Farouq Aminu back from a 13-game absence. And then they had one of their worst offensive games of the season against Milwaukee on Thursday and one of their worst defensive games of the season against New Orleans (without Anthony Davis) on Saturday, with the magic of their new starting lineup (Pat Connaughton at small forward) wearing off. After it scored 124 points per 100 possessions in its first three games, the lineup scored 86 in the last two.

RANKINGS RELEASED WEDNESDAY

NBC Sports: Blazers rank No. 14

Last week's ranking: 9

Portland's neighbors: Washington Wizards at 13, Oklahoma City Thunder at 15

What they wrote: Despite their inability to stop [Bradley] Beal on Tuesday, the Blazers are still are a surprisingly good defensive team, fourth in the league overall with the lowest opponent field goal percentage around the rim in the league (55.3%, from Cleaning the Glass). Opponents are still getting a lot of shots there, however, which is concerning. The Blazers have lost three in a row to start a four-game homestand and now things get tough: Houston on Saturday, followed by five in a row on the road, opening against Golden State. Then when the road trip ends they come home to the Spurs.

Jared Cowley is a digital producer at KGW. Follow him on Twitter here.

VIDEO: Will Blazers' offense ever get better?

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