Blazers stumble, but bounce back with alacrity

No NBA team goes 82–0. Perfect seasons are left for high school and college football. Even in professional basketball, all-time teams hit rough patches and lose some games they should have won. In 1995–96 the Chicago Bulls won a record 72 games, but they also lost to the new expansion team, the Toronto Raptors. Unexplainable losses are inevitable in the seven month haul that is the NBA regular season.

The Portland Trail Blazers lost four of six games, all to opponents with inferior records who they should have beat. It seemed like Rip City was about to lose faith in this magic season.

But this team has shown that they bounce back from adversity. Every time the Blazers look down or out of the contest they battle back into the game. They have yet to lose three games in a row; in fact, the four losses were the first back-to-back losses this season. They have two players who can put the entire offensive load on their back, and multiple dangerous three-point threats. At times this group’s offense looks unstoppable.

Lamarcus Aldridge leads the NBA in field goals with almost 21 per game. He’s also sixth in scoring with 24 points per game. Damian Lillard leads the NBA in 3-pointers made with 125, shooting almost 45 percent.

Anyone who closely watches the NBA postseason knows you can’t rely on great offense alone in a playoff series. Opposing coaches have more time to game plan for the Blazers threats, and the offense is sure to lose effectiveness as a series unfolds.

The Blazers need to get better at defense. They have some effective individual defenders, but need a team defensive philosophy to match their offensive efforts. This team is young, especially in terms of playoff experience. They are gaining important experience playing in very close games, but the regular season is quite different from the post. When they do play effective D, the Blazers do great. They are 14–0 when holding opponents under 100 points.

Despite the four tough losses, the Blazers continue to win key games. Beating the Thunder in Oklahoma City is no small accomplishment, and it gives them belief that they can win on any team’s home floor. They won three in a row following the fourth loss, bringing their record at the Rose Garden (known to some as the Moda Center) to 16–4.

Even if the Blazers go .500 for the rest of the season they are on pace to win 50 games, with almost 20 wins more than last year and the first time with 50 wins since 2009–10.

The playoffs are the goal for this season, but it won’t be considered a success if they don’t at least get past the first round. In the last 14 playoff appearances, the Blazers have exited in the first round 12 times.

Many sports pundits believe the Blazers are one piece away from being a true contender. It is possible C.J. McCollum is that piece. McCollum had his first NBA minutes in the win over Orlando. Three days later against Boston, he put his offense on display. He made his first three shots (two of them three-pointers) in a promising 10 point performance. If he can fit in with the regular Blazer reserves, this squad may have what it takes for a deep playoff run.