It's a small sample size, but Blazers showing improvement on defense

PORTLAND, Ore. -- It hasn't been a pretty season in Portland for fans of NBA defense.

Portland is allowing the third-highest amount of points in the NBA (110.9 per game), is ranked 22nd in the NBA in opponent field-goal percentage (45.7 percent) and 28th in opponent 3-point field goal percentage (38 percent). They also rank No. 22 in steals (7.1).

In the past four games, however, the Blazers have shown a noticeable uptick in defensive effort and performance, boosted by a shift in the team's defensive scheme that includes more trapping and doubling ball-handlers.

VIDEO: Blazers coach Terry Stotts says he really liked the team's defensive performance

During that stretch, Portland has allowed only 95.8 points per game, and held its four opponents (Toronto, Sacramento, San Antonio and Minnesota) to 40.4 percent field-goal shooting and 36.4 percent 3-point shooting. They've also averaged 8.5 steals in the four contests, during which the team has gone 2-2.

Several players talked about the team's new defensive scheme after Sunday's 95-89 win against the Timberwolves, in which they held Minnesota to 89 points, 40.2 percent shooting from the field and 30.4 percent on 3-pointers.

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Center Mason Plumlee told Jason Quick of Comcast SportsNet Northwest that the new scheme has energized the players.

“It’s a defense that I think excites us, and plays to our strengths,’’ Plumlee said. “We have a lot of long, active, quick-footed guys, especially when you look at Chief (Aminu), Moe (Harkless), Noah (Vonleh). We have a lot of length, so we can take advantage of that.’’


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