Friday's impressive win against the Toronto Raptors isn't enough to erase the memory of the Portland Trail Blazers' uninspiring play over the past month.
When everything clicks (including the beleaguered bench), like it did Friday night, the team is fun to watch and offers hope to its discontented fan base that the Blazers might someday mature beyond the one-and-done playoff contender status this stagnant franchise has occupied most of the past five seasons.
There's a reason Portland's fans are so frustrated. The positive memory of the team's unanticipated start to the season (a 12-5 start, first place in the Western Conference) has faded over the past month as the Blazers have lost eight of 12 and fallen to eighth place in the conference.
(Story continues below)
Listen to the most recent edition of the 3-on-3 Blazers podcast:
Over the past 12 games, Portland's offense has been mediocre (17th in the league) and the team has sported the fourth-worst defense in the NBA. The team is being outscored by 6.2 points per 100 possessions during the past 12 games, which ranks 25th in the NBA.
Blazers fans looking for hope will be happy to know there are some recent signs of life. The Blazers have won three of five, during which the team's offensive rating (13th), defensive rating (11th) and net rating (11th) have improved. And Portland has been a good team at the Moda Center all season. The Blazers are 11-4 at home, which is tied for the fourth-best home record in the NBA. That bodes well, considering 10 of the teams' next 14 games are in Portland.
Still, the Blazers need to start showing they can compete away from home. Portland is just 5-9 on the road. The Blazers will get a chance to build some momentum with a road contest Monday night against the Los Angeles Clippers (17-12), who have lost three in a row and five of six.
Here's a look at how the Blazers fared in this week's round of power rankings.
Sports Illustrated: Blazers rank No. 11 (up 1)
What they wrote: Friday’s win over the Raptors was much needed after road losses to the Rockets and Grizzlies. Too bad for the Trail Blazers, they probably won’t have to worry about a tiebreaker scenario with Toronto. Can’t say the same about Houston and Memphis though. — Khadrice Rollins
CBS Sports: Blazers rank No. 11 (down 1)
What they wrote: What's the path forward for the Trail Blazers? They have one of the best backcourts in the NBA in Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, yet the rest of their roster doesn't exactly scream high ceiling. I'm a believer in Zach Collins, and he was fantastic to start the season, but he has largely fallen off from his hot start. Collins was averaging 1.1 blocks and shooting 36.8 percent from three his first 20 games; over the past nine games he's averaging 0.6 blocks and shooting 23.1 percent from three. — Reid Forgrave
ESPN: Blazers rank No. 12 (no change)
What they wrote: Remember when Portland was first in the Western Conference after an 11-5 start? Now, the Blazers are in eighth place in the West after winning just five of their past 13 games. So what's wrong? One problem is the Blazers need more scoring from their bench. Portland's reserves showed some promise by scoring 58 in a win over Toronto on Friday. — Marc Spears
NBA.com: Blazers rank No. 13 (no change)
What they wrote: After his bench got destroyed again in Houston on Monday, coach Terry Stotts finally went back to having Damian Lillard or C.J. McCollum on the floor at all times (S.O.P. the last three seasons). But that didn't help, as the Blazers were outscored 17-2 to start the second quarter in Memphis on Wednesday in what turned out to be their worst offensive game of the season (despite 40 points from McCollum). Stotts went back to sitting Lillard and McCollum together on Friday, and his bench responded with a huge game (they were a plus-16 in 21 minutes with at least one reserve on the floor) in a win over Toronto on Friday, the team's best offensive game since October (with McCollum scoring only 14 points). The Blazers are 11-0 when Zach Collins has registered a positive plus-minus and 5-13 when he hasn't. They're also 8-3 against the Eastern Conference, but just 8-10 against the West, with 10 of their next 11 games within the conference. — John Schuhmann
The Athletic: Blazers rank No. 13 (down 1)
What they wrote: I’m pretty worried about the long-term viability of this team. I was pretty confident about them in the first month of the season, but they keep sliding here. They’ve been declining every week in the Power Rankings since they appeared fourth in Week 4. They’ve won just four of their last 12 games and the duo of CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard simply isn’t enough on any given night in the West. They’ve both been scoring well during this 12-game stretch, even with McCollum struggling with his outside shot (31.7 percent. The rest of the team has been wholly unreliable. Last season, they were a middling offense and a very good defense. This season, they’re a very good offense and a middling at best defense. — Zach Harper