PORTLAND, Ore. — It was an eventful week for the Blazers.
On Thursday, Portland broke a two-game losing streak when Allen Crabbe led the Blazers' second-half rally, hitting eight 3-pointers and scoring 25 points in a 105-98 win against the Timberwolves.
Blazers fans were content.
Two days later, Damian Lillard scored 26 first-quarter points, including 22 in a row, en route to a franchise-record 59 points in Saturday's impressive 101-86 victory against the Utah Jazz.
Blazers fans were pleased.
Finally, the Blazers clinched the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference after Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook broke the Nuggets' hearts with a game-winning 3-pointer on Sunday.
Blazers fans were giddy.
Even former Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge was praising the Blazers during Monday's shootaround at the Moda Center in preparation for Monday night's game between the Spurs and Blazers.
"I think they've played great," he said. "Damian's led them, he's played great. Him and CJ (McCollum) have carried the team. I think they've earned it."
Portland Trail Blazers (40-40) vs. San Antonio Spurs (61-19)
7 p.m., CSNNW, 620 AM
As much fun as the past few days have been for the Blazers and their fans, the national media swooped in Monday with a small dose of reality. The final power rankings of the regular season were released and the national media doesn't appear to be quite as high on the Blazers as Rip City.
Last week, Portland moved into the Top 10 in several sets of rankings. This week, they dropped right back out.
It's not too surprising. Lillard's historic performance and the playoff berth have Portland riding a high. But early last week, Portland lost two consecutive road games against the Timberwolves and Jazz. It was an up-and-down week for the Blazers, even if the highs overshadowed the lows.
Here's a look at how the NBA pundits graded the Blazers:
CBS Sports: Blazers drop four spots to No. 11
Excerpt: A return to the postseason for Portland two years in a row is an accomplishment ... but one that should be couched with how bad the back half of the West has been in both situations. Nurkic vs. Draymond Green will be must-see TV in the first round.
ESPN: Blazers drop two spots to No. 11
Excerpt: The Blazers' 16-5 surge into playoff position, thus hoisting themselves out of a 24-35 hole, has spawned hope that Golden State's first-round series will be more competitive than anticipated. (Whether that's truly possible without a return to the lineup for Jusuf Nurkic from that lower-leg ailment remains to be seen.) Damian Lillard's strong surge to the regular-season finish line, meanwhile, means we've seen 10 different 50-point scorers in 2016-17; Lillard's 59-point eruption Saturday night against Utah — with zero turnovers! — put him in the club along Russell Westbrook (four times), James Harden (twice), Devin Booker, Jimmy Butler, DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, Isaiah Thomas, John Wall and Klay Thompson (who had a 60-point game before Booker erupted for 70).
NBC Sports: Blazers stay put at No. 11
Excerpt: Portland has gotten into the playoffs, aided by Damian Lillard going off for 59 points on the Jazz last week. He’s going to have to have another game like that for the Trail Blazers to steal a game from the Warriors in the first round. That said, there should be fireworks as this is a matchup of the teams with the two best point differentials since the All-Star break.
NBA.com: Blazers stay put at No. 11
Excerpt: Russell Westbrook's latest heroics pushed the Blazers into the playoffs and a series that will match the teams with the league's two best records since March 1. The Blazers went 0-4 against Golden State, but Evan Turner had the last meeting in his hands in the closing seconds and all four games took place before the Jusuf Nurkic trade. Nurkic did some pre-game shooting last week, is scheduled to be reevaluated between Wednesday's finale and the opening game of the first round, and would give the Warriors a defensive challenge (a strong post-up big) that doesn't play into their strengths (versatility and switchability) on that end of the floor. Damian Lillard, who scored a career-high 59 points in Saturday's win over Utah, can get buckets too.
Sports Illustrated: Blazers move up two spots to No. 12
Excerpt: Damian Lillard’s ridiculous 59-point showing against the Jazz wound up being the straw that got Portland into the playoffs, and it should at least make things interesting against Golden State when it counts. We’ve seen this happen before, though. Props to the Blazers for getting hot at the right time.
Jared Cowley is a digital producer for KGW.
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