PORTLAND, Ore. — The Portland Trail Blazers' embarrassing loss to the Sacramento Kings on Friday night may still be fresh in the minds of discouraged Blazers fans, but the NBA pundits who prepare power rankings each week were impressed enough by the team's performance in their other three games last week to push them up in the rankings.
Portland won three of its four games last week, beating the Nuggets and Magic at home, before bouncing back from the loss in Sacramento with a win against the Kings at the Moda Center.
For the season, the Blazers rank 18th in the league on offense and second on defense. During last week's four games, Portland ranked first in defensive rating, allowing 92.4 points per 100 possessions, and 24th in offense with 100.8 points per 100 possessions.
The Blazers' defense has been so good, they own the sixth-best net rating for the season and the seventh-best among games last week. But the offense will have to be better than it has been if Portland wants to move beyond its current trend of flirting with a record slightly better than .500.
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The Blazers have benefited from playing 11 of their first 16 games at the Moda Center. But the easiest part of the Blazers schedule has come and gone.
Portland begins a five-game road trip Monday in Memphis and will play 10 of their next 14 and 18 of their next 27 on the road. In addition, 19 of the Blazers' next 27 games are against teams with records of .500 or better.
Here's a look at where the Blazers stack up in the latest NBA power rankings.
RANKINGS RELEASED MONDAY
CBS Sports: Blazers rank No. 9
Last week's ranking: 12
Portland's neighbors: 76ers at 8, Bucks at 10
What they wrote: The biggest surprise about the Blazers this season has to be the emergence of Shabazz Napier. The former first round pick has gone from probably out of the league to one of Portland's best rotation players. He played a huge role in their win over the Magic with five 3-pointers.
USA Today: Blazers rank No. 9
Last week's ranking: 13
Portland's neighbors: Wizards at 10, Cavaliers at 8
What they wrote: The Blazers boast the No. 2 defense in the league (98.5 points allowed per 100 possessions). They also rank in the top five in opponent field goal percentage (43.1%), three-point percentage (33%) and three-pointers made (8.3 per game).
NBA.com: Blazers rank No. 9
Last week's ranking: 14
Portland's neighbors: Thunder at 10, Wizards at 8
What they wrote: The Blazers were a minus-9 in less than five minutes with neither Damian Lillard or C.J. McCollum on the floor in Friday's four-point loss in Sacramento. Otherwise, their bench has been a positive, and Terry Stotts went back to having one of Lillard and McCollum always on the floor as they got their win back on Saturday. Shabazz Napier seems to have a permanent spot in the rotation, has shot 58 percent, and was on the floor (with Lillard and McCollum) down the stretch of both of the Blazers' close games last week, hitting a big three in Wednesday's win over Orlando. They played 11 of their last 13 games at the Moda Center, but ranked 24th offensively over that stretch and will now play 18 of their next 27 on the road.
ESPN: Blazers rank No. 11
Last week's ranking: 15
Portland's neighbors: Wizards at 10, Thunder at 12
What they wrote: The Trail Blazers are about to begin a five-game road trip. They won their first two games of the season on the road but have since lost three straight; two decided by fewer than five points and the other in overtime.
Sports Illustrated: Blazers rank No. 11
Last week's ranking: 11
Portland's neighbors: Cavaliers at 10, Grizzlies at 12
What they wrote: Their defense has only allowed 100 points once in the past seven games, and now ranks as the second-best in the league. It was No. 21 last season.
We will update this article as other publications release their rankings later in the week. Jared Cowley is a digital producer at KGW. You can follow him on Twitter here.
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