Portland is Reeling in the Northwest DivisionBy Marc U.
Well, sometimes you nail things right on the head and other times you couldn’t be further than if you missed by a mile. There’s still some time for me to be proven right with my picks of the Detroit Pistons and Portland Trail Blazers to somehow make the playoffs but neither are looking very promising at the current time.
I’ll get to the Pistons later this week, but as for the Trail Blazers who have lost seven straight, things are not looking good.
The Blazers have dropped to 5.5 games behind the Houston Rockets in the race for the Western Conference’s eighth and final playoff spot and will now have to leap-frog Dallas and the LA Lakers and still have to deal with the Rockets in order to make the playoffs. The current streak of losses has seen Portland score as low as 63 in a loss to New Orleans and as much as 107 but they can’t seem to stop anyone right now and therein lies the problem.
If Portland is serious about getting back into the race with just 26 games left (they played Boston last night) then must improve at both ends of the court. They’re currently giving up almost 100 points a game which is good for 21st in the league. On the offensive end, they are scoring just 97 per game which is good for 17th in the league.
LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard are doing their part at 20 and 18 points per game respectively but Aldridge and center J.J. Hickson need more help on the boards where Portland is getting hurt. I still think this team can make a run, but time is running dreadfully short on them now.
- Fisher is expected to re-sign with the Thunder today which could give them some defensive help at the point.
Oklahoma City has seen their lead in the division shrink to six games now over Denver. The Thunder had lost three straight before righting the ship against Minnesota Friday night. They hosted Chicago last evening.
I’m starting to have doubts as to whether the Thunder can win the NBA title let alone get back to the finals. Scoring is not going to be a problem with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook but defense is suddenly becoming a bigger issue. In their four losses over their last ten games, the Thunder have surrendered well over 100 points. Those losses were to Cleveland, Houston, Miami and Utah.
In their win over Minnesota, they gave up 111 points. Houston and Miami are to be expected. Both of those teams can score, but the other three I mentioned are not exactly known as ‘scoring machines.’ As long as the San Antonio Spurs continue to play with the consistency they are now then I’m not sure that even the Thunder can take them simply because they just aren’t defending right now.
Games in the Northwest This Week
Denver at Portland – Depending upon the outcome of last night, Portland could be on a eight-game losing streak. Either way, they have to show they are serious about hanging in the playoff race and that starts by playing better against division foe Denver. The Nuggets have goals of their own which include chasing down the Thunder if they keep stumbling. Denver is just playing too well right now not to get the win in Rip City.
Oklahoma City at Denver – If you want to prove you can hang with the best then you defend your home court and that’s something the Nuggets have done well this year. I’m not totally convinced the Thunder are back on track so take the Nuggets at home.
Charlotte at Utah – The Jazz are 21-6 at home. The Bobcats are 6-21 on the road. Utah is looking to strengthen its’ playoff positioning and does so for one night at least with a win over Charlotte.