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.
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.
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.’’