NBA power rankings: Blazers' Big 3 playing well

KGW's Jared Cowley, Orlando Sanchez and Nate Hanson predict the outcome of the Blazers' next four games, all on the road against the 76ers, Nets, Wizards and Knicks.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Thanks to two exciting comeback victories over the holiday weekend, the Blazers went an impressive 4-1 on their recent five-game Eastern Conference road trip.

Portland overcame a late six-point deficit to beat the Nets, 127-125, on Friday and then rallied from 17 points down in the fourth quarter to beat the Wizards, 108-105, the next night.

The Blazers ended the road trip ends Monday afternoon with a 103-91 win against the New York Knicks.

The Blazers' final three victories on the road trip, in addition to a solid road win last Monday in Memphis, were enough to ease the sting of a lackadaisical 20-point loss to the Philadelphia 76ers last Wednesday. (Story continues below)

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Portland was buoyed during the road trip by strong play from its Big 3. Over the past five games, Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic played as well as they have together all season, combining to score about 64 points per game.

Lillard broke out of his shooting slump, scoring 29.2 points on 46 percent shooting from the field, including 38 percent from the 3-point line. Nurkic played his most consistent basketball of the season, averaging about 16 points, nine rebounds, three assists and two blocks per game.

McCollum, meanwhile, saved the Blazers in the clutch on numerous occasions. On the road trip, McCollum made 5 of 6 shots and scored 11 points in games that were within five points with five minutes or less remaining. The rest of the Blazers managed a combined 13 points on 2-of-8 shooting in the same stretches of play.

It all made up for a very successful road trip that prompted several pundits to move the Blazers up in the latest NBA power rankings.

RANKINGS RELEASED MONDAY

CBS Sports: Blazers rank No. 7

Last week's ranking: 9

Portland's neighbors: 76ers at 6, Pistons at 8

What they wrote: Going across the coast is never easy for either conference, but Portland looks in control of its current East Coast swing. Unlike previous years, this season's Blazers team feels real thanks to their great defense.

ESPN: Blazers rank No. 8

Last week's ranking: 11

Portland's neighbors: Raptors at 7, 76ers at 9

What they wrote: Damian Lillard, Jusuf Nurkic and CJ McCollum combined to score 89 points in Friday's two-point win against the Nets, their second-highest point total as teammates. All three scored at least 25 points, the first time three Trail Blazers players had scored 25 points in the same game since November 2012.

NBA.com: Blazers rank No. 9

Last week's ranking: 9

Portland's neighbors: 76ers at 8, Timberwolves at 10

What they wrote: The Blazers never recovered from an 0-for-13 start in Philly on Wednesday, but are 3-1 on their road trip that ends at Madison Square Garden on Monday, with a big game (29 points, 15 rebounds, four blocks, and the go-ahead bucket) from Jusuf Nurkic in Brooklyn on Friday, a big comeback (from 17 points down in the fourth quarter) in Washington on Saturday, and big buckets from C.J. McCollum (5-for-6 in the clutch on the trip) in all three games. Despite the absence of Al-Farouq Aminu for the last 12, their defense continues to hold up. After the Washington win (with John Wall out), they've had the league's best defense against top-10 offenses, having allowed just 96 points per 100 possessions in going 4-1 against that group.

USA Today: Blazers rank No. 9

Last week's ranking: 9

Portland's neighbors: 76ers at 8, Timberwolves at 10

What they wrote: Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic each scored 25-plus points in Friday's win over the Nets — the first time a Blazers trio has done so since 1995, per Elias Sports.

Sports Illustrated: Blazers rank No. 11

Last week's ranking: 11

Portland's neighbors: 76ers at 10, Pacers at 12

What they wrote: I touched on Portland’s struggles late in games a couple of weeks ago, and this week I’m going to touch on its great play late in games. CJ McCollum led the way in two nailbiters last week, with a little help from Jusuf Nurkic and Shabazz Napier (!). Once an afterthought, the UConn product has been quite productive off the bench this season.

RANKINGS RELEASED WEDNESDAY

NBC Sports: Blazers rank No. 9

Last week's ranking: 10

Portland's neighbors: 76ers at 8, Pacers at 10

What they wrote: When their big three of Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, and Jusuf Nurkic are on the court together, the Trail Blazers outscore opens by a healthy 5.6 points per 100 possessions, with their offense clicking along with a 108 net rating (would be sixth in the NBA). Portland went an impressive 4-1 on a five-game road trip, knocking off the Wizards and Knicks among others. Now they are home for four games, then will spend much of the rest of December on the road.

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

© 2017 KGW-TV


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