NBA power rankings: Blazers vault into Top 10

KGW's Jared Cowley, Orlando Sanchez and Nate Hanson break down the Blazers' defensive performance in the season opener against the Suns and wonder whether they can keep it up this season.

PORTLAND, Ore. — The Portland Trail Blazers got off to a good start, winning two of three games on their season-opening road trip. Then they took care of business at home, beating the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday night.

After several close misses in NBA power rankings published before Tuesday's game, the Blazers made their first Top-10 appearance in the rankings published Wednesday by NBC Sports.

Portland's first two games were against the Phoenix Suns, arguably the worst team in the NBA, and the Indiana Pacers, a squad that may not make the playoffs in the depleted Eastern Conference. Predictably, the Blazers rolled in those two games, winning by a combined 66 points.

The third game of the road trip, a tough test against early MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo and the upstart Milwaukee Bucks on the second night of a back-to-back, was a more competitive affair, with the Bucks pulling ahead in the final 30 seconds to beat the Blazers 113-110.

Then on Tuesday night, the Blazers won their 17th consecutive home opener, getting 24 points from CJ McCollum and a strong performance from their bench to beat the New Orleans Pelicans 103-93.

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After four games, the Blazers rank fifth in the NBA in offensive rating (110.6) and fourth in defensive rating (93.4). Their net rating of 17.2 ranks third in the league. Those lofty statistics can be attributed, at least in part, to some weak early competition, but it doesn't erase what has been a positive start to the 2017-18 campaign.

The Blazers play two more games this week, hosting the Los Angeles Clippers (3-0) on Thursday and the Suns (1-3) on Saturday.

Here's a look at where the Blazers rank this week.

RANKINGS PUBLISHED ON MONDAY

ESPN: Blazers rank No. 12

Last week's ranking: 14

Portland's neighbors: Utah Jazz at 11, Denver Nuggets at 13 

What they wrote: Which team had the largest point differential through the first two games of a season in NBA history? That would be these Trail Blazers, who outscored their first two opponents by a combined 66 points. Granted, their historic, 48-point win on opening night over the Suns gave that a boost. Portland could be 3-0 if it hadn't run into Antetokounmpo playing the best game of his career.

Sports Illustrated: Blazers rank No. 13

Last week's ranking: 14

Portland's neighbors: Memphis Grizzlies at 12, New Orleans Pelicans at 14

What they wrote: 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.

NBA.com: Blazers rank No. 13

Last week's ranking: 13

Portland's neighbors: Milwaukee Bucks at 12, Boston Celtics at 14

What they wrote: The Blazers lost just one of the 12 quarters they played last week, but that was good for just a 2-1 record, because Antetokounmpo shut them down in the final minute on Saturday. The opposition in the first two games -- the disinterested Suns and the Myles Turner-less Pacers -- was weak, but you take road wins any way you can get them. The Blazers have dominated the glass (leading the league in rebounding percentage) and C.J. McCollum has shot 58 percent, even though he didn't get to play against that atrocious Phoenix defense on Wednesday.

RANKINGS PUBLISHED ON TUESDAY

USA TODAY: Blazers rank 11

Last week's ranking: 15

Portland's neighbors: L.A. Clippers at 11, Minnesota Timberwolves at 12

What they wrote: What better way to start a season than with the largest opening-night victory in NBA history? With a 48-point rout of Phoenix, followed by an 18-point win over Indiana and a last-minute loss to Milwaukee, early (like, really early) signs indicate that the Blazers could surprise some folks this season.

RANKINGS PUBLISHED ON WEDNESDAY

NBC Sports: Blazers rank 8

Last week's ranking: 13

Portland's neighbors: Cleveland Cavaliers at 7, Milwaukee Bucks at 9

What they wrote: They had a strong start to the season but this is where context matters — they blew out a very bad Suns team, then got the Pacers without Myles Turner. The Blazers offense has been a force early, but that is to be expected, the question is can they keep up the strong defensive play as the schedule gets tougher (Clippers, Raptors ahead in the next week)?

Note: We will add more rankings to this article as they are published by various outlets.

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

© 2017 KGW-TV


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