One of the most surprising teams of the young NBA season has been the Portland Trail Blazers, who had gotten off to 14-3 start before last night’s clash with the 16-1 Indiana Pacers. This game was going to be a big test for the young Blazers, as the Pacers are one of the top teams in the league and undoubtedly own the NBA’s best defense. The Blazers have a lot of talent, but many were thinking their hot start was just a fluke.
However, the Blazers proved that they are no fluke, and they recorded a huge 106-102 win over the Pacers. The 15-3 Blazers are off to their best start in nearly 15 years, and they now have to be considered a contender in the Western Conference. The criminally underrated LaMarcus Aldridge led the way again, scoring 28 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Damian Lillard added 26 points, including 14 in the fourth quarter as the Blazers tried to hold off Paul George (43 points) and the Pacers to seal the win.
Who would have predicted that just over a month into the season the Blazers would be sitting atop the Western Conference? Nobody would have, but here we are and here they are, and it is time to take this team seriously. Lillard and Aldridge form one of the best pick and roll combinations in the game, and they are capable of scoring in bunches. Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews provide solid play on the wings, usually with strong defense (last night was the exception, not the rule).
Add in a solid supporting cast of Robin Lopez, Thomas Robinson, Mo Williams and Dorrell Wright, and the Blazers have a rotation that can play with anyone. Many people thought this team was headed in the right direction, but no would could have predicted their rise to the top of the standings would have come this soon. However, Aldridge and Lillard give the team two legitimate star talents, and the Blazers now look like a surefire playoff team.
The Blazers are going to cool off somewhat, and they still are more likely to finish in the middle of the pack than at the top of the West’s playoff standings. However, if they can continue to play this way, the Blazers will certainly find their way into the playoffs, and they will not be a team that anyone looks forward to playing.