PORTLAND, Ore. — The Trail Blazers got back on track with a couple wins at home last week, first against the lowly Suns and then against the surging Timberwolves, one of the more impressive victories of the season.
Now Portland has to prove its left the slump behind by going out and winning some games on the road. The Blazers (15-11) face a tough back-to-back with a Tuesday tilt against the surprisingly second-rate Rockets (11-14) and then a Wednesday date with the surprisingly successful Grizzlies (15-10).
After those two games, Portland returns home to face the Raptors (21-7) on Friday, following up a one-game trip to Los Angeles to face the Clippers (16-9).
By this time next week, we'll have a better grasp on where the up-and-down Blazers stand.
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Portland has been two different teams this season, depending on where they're playing. At home, Portland has 10 wins in 14 games, tied for the fifth-best home record in the NBA. Away from the comfortable confines of the Moda Center, the Blazers are just 5-7.
The Blazers have a Top 10 offense and defense when they play at home. They score 112.6 points per 100 possessions at the Moda Center, which ranks eighth in the league among home teams, and they allow 104.6 points per 100 possessions, which ranks ninth. Their net rating of +8.0 ranks seventh in the league.
On the road, it's a different story. The offense hasn't been terrible away from the Moda Center; the Blazers score 108.9 points per 100 possessions, which ranks 12th among road teams. But the defense has been terrible, allowing 114.3 points per 100 possessions, which ranks 25th. Their net rating of -5.4 on the road ranks 21st.
Here's a look at how the Blazers fared in this week's round of power rankings.
CBS Sports: Blazers rank No. 10 (no change)
What they wrote: After a rough 1-6 stretch, the Blazers had a get-right win over the awful Phoenix Suns followed by Saturday's clutch crunch-time win over the Timberwolves. One of the most perplexing defensive stats of this NBA season: The Blazers' Seth Curry is the current NBA leader in defensive rating, and has the top defensive field goal percentage in the NBA. Think that might regress?
ESPN: Blazers rank No. 12 (no change)
What they wrote: Should the Blazers consider Carmelo Anthony? The 10-time All-Star had previously turned down overtures from the Blazers twice, but Portland could also be aided by adding a third proven scorer. Over the past 10 games, the team ranks 17th in offensive rating.
Author's note: No. Please, no.
Sports Illustrated: Blazers rank No. 12 (no change)
What they wrote: Portland had lost six of seven before picking up consecutive wins to close out this week. The bulk of those loses were on the road, but the Trail Blazers were only 1-2 at home during that stretch, with all three games going down to the wire. Getting wins against the Suns and Timberwolves could be the perfect jolt before this upcoming back-to-back in Houston and Memphis. Especially with the way Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum closed out Saturday’s victory over Minnesota.
The Athletic: Blazers rank No. 12 (no change)
What they wrote: How do they unlock this Jusuf Nurkic more? How do the Portland Trail Blazers bring whatever was in Nurkic against Minnesota this week out more often? Nurkic has been mostly a highly positive force for the Blazers this year. His impact puts him with the second highest net rating (+8.1) on the team. He’s averaging a double-double on the season. But against Towns and the Wolves, Nurkic was a different type of beast than we normally see. Those stories about his dad being such a scary individual? Nurkic embodied all of that during the win over the Wolves. He finished with 22 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, four blocks, and three steals. He got to the free throw line nine times in the game.
Now, getting those averages would be some video game stuff. But having that impact as a shot blocker and a passer needs to happen more. We know he can score 10-15 points every night while snagging 10 boards. But Nurkic as a playmaker on both ends of the floor isn’t so much a constant. The Blazers need him at the rim a lot more on defense because he has success as a protector. They need him dropping bounce passes to cutters on the baseline and wrecking defenders trying to fight through dribble hand-offs. This is the Nurk the Blazers traded for. If they can get that, they can climb back up the West standings and move away from the danger zone of not making the playoffs.
NBA.com: Blazers rank No. 13 (no change)
What they wrote: After losing six of their previous seven games, the Blazers got to play the Suns on Thursday. They took care of business (without C.J. McCollum) and, more importantly, beat the Wolves two nights later, their first win in almost four weeks over a team that's currently .500 or better. They closed the eight-point win with a 17-3 run (featuring a lot of McCollum and Damian Lillard), but all 26 of their games have been won by the team leading after the third quarter. Coach Terry Stotts continues to give Evan Turner some minutes running the offense, even though the Blazers been outscored by 51 points in 92 minutes with Turner on the floor without either Lillard or McCollum over the past month. They're 1-5 on the road within the Western Conference (having allowed almost 119 points per 100 possessions in the five losses), with that only win coming on Oct. 30 in the city (Houston) where they'll be on Tuesday.