After starting off the season red hot, the Portland Trail Blazers have now lost five of their last eight games, dropping their record to 34-14. With the Western Conference being so competitive, many are beginning to wonder if the first half of the season a fluke, what seed will they claim in the West, and how far LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard can take them.
Over the last seven games the Blazers have lost to Houston, OKC, Golden State, Memphis, and most recently Washington. The Blazers are not losing to teams who have losing records, as all these teams are in playoff contention. However, the losing trend that is beginning to form is unsettling, especially when they have lost each game by an average of 12.6 points.
Over the last eight games the Blazers have played two back-to-backs in different states, and have played all eight games over the span of only fourteen days. To those who think that the Blazers are not the real deal and that the first half of the season was a fluke, you may be right. However, it is safe to say that the last fourteen days have been the toughest of their schedule to date. With all the travel and continuous play without rest, fatigue is the likely cause for their recent losing ways.
All season long the Blazers have been led by their two All-Stars, Aldridge and Lillard. They are the two primary scoring options, and are both respectively averaging 24.3 and 20.7 PPG. In back-to-back games, Aldridge has managed to stay consistent with his scoring and rebounding numbers. Lillard on the other hand has struggled, only scoring 19.2 a game.
This may not seem like a significant drop, but even their season averages appear to be low compared to their stats when given a rest of three or more days. In this case, Aldridge and Lillard are both averaging an astounding 29.2 and 24.2. So, it’s safe to say that with proper rest these two are a force to be reckoned with.
The combination of travel and opponents that the Blazers have had to face over the last few weeks serves as a reasonable explanation as to why the Blazers have had five near blowout losses. With their schedule not getting easier, and two more back-to-backs against championship contenders just around the corner, the Blazers are going to have to find some way to get their legs underneath them again.
The Blazers are barely holding onto the third seed in the Western Conference, with the Clippers only one and a half games back. If they want to keep home court advantage in the playoffs, they will have to get back to their winning ways through the second half of the season.
With their next five games all against playoff contenders, could the Trail Blazers start another eleven game winning streak, or could they be given their fourth loss in the last five games?