PORTLAND, Ore. — Trail Blazers fans were disappointed last Thursday when Portland's front office failed to make a big move at the trade deadline.
Losing two of three since the deadline, including an inexplicable loss to the Dallas Mavericks, surely hasn't helped fans feel any better about the Blazers.
Portland is still in fourth place in the West, but they're now tied with the Houston Rockets, and have fallen four games behind the third-place Thunder. The Blazers are three games ahead of the Kings and Clippers, who are both tied for eighth place, which means they're closer to falling out of the playoff race than moving up to the three seed.
The Blazers' two acquisitions at the deadline, Rodney Hood and Skal Labissiere, haven't made a big impact yet for Portland. Labissiere hasn't played a minute for the Blazers.
Hood has had a promising start on offense, averaging 10.3 points in 22.2 minutes in his first three games in Portland. He's also scorching the nets so far, making 68 percent of his field goals and 56 percent of his 3-pointers. But he's done little more than score, averaging 1.3 rebounds, 0.7 steals and 0.3 assists, and he has a plus-minus of -1.0.
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The Blazers are also allowing 118.1 points per 100 possessions while Hood has been on the court, the worst individual defensive rating on the team over the past three games. That's an early concern, with all the requisite disclaimers of small sample size.
Here's a look at where the Blazers fared in the latest batch of power rankings. Many of these rankings were published before Monday's loss to the Thunder.
ESPN: Blazers rank No. 8 (no change)
What they wrote: Will center Skal Labissiere finally get a chance to show what he can do with Portland? The 6-foot-11, 235-pounder averaged 2.8 points, 1.8 rebounds and 8.7 minutes in 13 games this season with Sacramento before being traded to Portland recently. The Haitian did not play for the Blazers in his potential debut in a 102-101 loss to the Mavericks on Sunday (editor's note: or in Monday's loss to the Thunder). — Marc Spears
NBA.com: Blazers rank No. 8 (no change)
What they wrote: When the Blazers had more than twice as many turnovers as field goals in the final 12 minutes in Dallas on Sunday, it was, amazingly, the first time in their 55 games that the winning team wasn't the one that led after the third quarter. Focusing on their 33-1 record when leading after three or their 0-21 record when trailing after three is a matter of perspective, though the fourth quarter (when they've been outscored by 4.2 points per 100 possessions) has been their worst of the four, with "Dame Time" more likely to occur in the first or third quarters (when Damian Lillard has an effective field goal percentage of 58 percent) than in the fourth (43 percent). In fact, Lillard's 9.74 points per game in the third quarter is the highest scoring average for any player in any quarter this season (just ahead of James Harden's 9.71 in the first). A win in one (or both) of their last two pre-break games (they'll have a rest disadvantage in Oklahoma City on Monday and a rest advantage against the champs on Wednesday) would go a long way in erasing the pain of the Dallas defeat. — John Schuhmann
CBS Sports: Blazers rank No. 10 (down 1)
What they wrote: I thought the Blazers made a couple of nice low-key moves last week, getting Rodney Hood, a valuable scoring option, for two second-rounders and some flotsam, and then flipping Caleb Swanigan for Skal Labissiere, who I'm still a believer in, reality be damned. These weren't exactly needle-moving moves, to be sure. The Blazers didn't make the splash they needed to make if they want to be considered the second-best team in the West after the Warriors. But they did what they could. — Reid Forgrave
Sports Illustrated: Blazers rank No. 9 (down 1)
What they wrote: After nearly a week off, the Trail Blazers dropped two of three and now they get to see Oklahoma City on the second night of a road back-to-back. With the third-place Thunder and eighth-place Clippers both three games away from Portland in the standings, these next few weeks will be huge. Of the Blazers next seven games, six are on the road and six are against teams currently in the playoffs. The lone home game is against the Warriors, but the one non-playoff team is the Cavaliers.
If the Blazers are going to enter April with any sort of hope, they will almost certainly need home court for at least one series. Although we know how that worked out last season, starting off a series in Portland gives them a much better chance as they are 23-8 there compared to 10-14 everywhere else. And guess who gets to play 17 of their next 27 away from Portland.
If the Blazers are going to avoid the likely approaching drop in the standings, Damian Lillard needs to take things up another level. Tuesday against Miami, he turned in one of his worst games of the season matching his campaign-low with 13 points in a loss to the Heat. Next he went 0-for-7 from three against the Spurs, but the team was able to survive.
Then came Sunday. And the Trail Blazers got to see just how much they bank on their main guard. After building and then surrendering a lead with Lillard playing poorly, the four-time All-Star exploded to put his squad in position to get an impressive road victory.
Then he went 0-for-4 in the fourth and had a turnover in the final two minutes when the game was tied, followed by two misses, including the potential game-winner.
The team’s woes on the road can’t be entirely attributed to Lillard, but since he has a lower offensive rating, higher defensive rating and worse true shooting percentage while also having a higher usage rate than at home, he needs to get some of the credit for this discrepancy.
If Lillard can correct his issues on the road, particularly with his 3-point shooting (38.4 percent at home and only 34.4 percent on the road), the Trail Blazers might hold onto fourth. If not, it’s going to be a long way down the standings before another first-round playoff exit makes it all stop. — Khadrice Rollins
The Athletic: Blazers rank No. 8 (no change)
What they wrote: The Portland Trail Blazers just started off a stretch of basketball in which they play 12 of their next 15 games on the road. It started Sunday when they couldn’t manage to put the Dallas Mavericks away at all. Luka Doncic outscored them in the fourth quarter 13-9 while Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum looked totally lost against the Dallas defense. It wasn’t the most embarrassing collapse in Blazers or NBA history, but it was still concerning enough on a small scale to not feel good about the next 15 games. Portland has struggled a bit on the road this season, and not many people around the league seem convinced this will be the year they break through in the postseason.
Portland is wonderfully and frustratingly right in the middle of the West playoff picture. Three games separates them from the 3-seed Oklahoma City Thunder. Three games also separates them from the 8-seed Los Angeles Clippers. This stretch seems to forecast the Blazers being far more likely to battle someone like the Clippers for playoff positioning than the Thunder. Portland’s acquisition of Rodney Hood should help quite a bit, and it takes the pressure off of Evan Turner to have to create so much for the second unit. Portland just needs to use that jolt of adrenaline to get them over the hump on the road. — Zach Harper