With CJ McCollum going down last week to a popliteus strain a little worry crept into how the Blazers might finish out the final few weeks of the season without him. Last week the Blazers posted wins over two potential playoff teams (Indiana and Detroit) and a team on the rise (Dallas). The games against the Pacers and the Mavs started out as blowouts (holding double-digit leads going into the fourth) before both teams made the games way too close in the end.
On Saturday night against the Pistons, the Blazers had a three-point deficit, but for the first time all week they were able to close the game out strong. Granted, against both the Pacers and the Mavs Terry Stotts went deep into the bench with Gary Trent Jr. and Anfernee Simmons both seeing time.
But hey, going 3-0 at home against three really tough opponents is an accomplishment. Especially when 21 points and four assists is missing from your line up. With CJ since the All-Star break, the Blazers averaged 116.5 points per game and the last three games the Blazers averaged 116.3. Basically the same thing!
Their shooting has been red hot too. They’ve shot just north of 50% from the field, 43% from three, and 81% from the line.
Where did the extra points come from?
|Name||With CJ||Without CJ||+/-|
We all knew that Damian Lillard was going to step and help carry the load. What’s even better is that Dame’s minutes didn’t have to increase. In fact, over the last three games, his minutes have slightly decreased (35.9 to 35.8). The biggest jumps came from Seth Curry (+7.9) and Al-Farouq Aminu (+6.6) this past week. Seth’s production has come in basically double the minutes. With Jake Layman starting and still in a really bad cold, it makes sense at the moment to take those minutes when he’s the one being productive and Layman can’t get a basketball into the Grand Canyon at the moment.
Terry Stotts really needs to think about starting Curry over Layman at this point. Layman is not going to get his confidence back playing against the starters.
Also, need to call out the recent play of Zach Collins. He seems to be helping fill in some holes defensively while playing a majority of his minutes next to Enes Kanter. Over the last three games, Collins has a defensive rating of 115 and a rebounding percentage at almost 15.
Oh, as an aside, Dame has been shooting 50% from three.
The Blazes play four of the next five on the road, with the one home game coming against a very good Brooklyn Nets team.
Let’s take a look at the upcoming four games this week.
Brooklyn Nets | Monday at 7:00 PM
On paper, this is the toughest game of the week. The Nets have beaten some really good teams this year but also struggle at times. Portland is getting the Nets at the best possible time. The Nets are on their longest road trip of the season (Monday marks the 14th day they’ve been on the West Coast) and are 2-3. The two wins have come against teams that are not going to be in the playoffs this year and the three losses have come against potential first-round playoff matchups for the Blazers.
@Chicago Bulls | Wednesday at 5:00 PM
The Bulls are not a good basketball team. There is a lot of turmoil in the front office and there are some coaching issues. The Bulls are a feisty team though and if they get hot they have a chance to outscore any team in the league. Zach LaVine is more than game to try and outduel Damian Lillard.
The Bulls might be in full on tank mode, but that doesn’t mean they are going to be a pushover.
@Atlanta Hawks | Friday at 4:30 PM
The Hawks have wins over two playoff teams (76ers and Jazz) this week. This is another game that can get away from the Blazers if they don’t put the Hawks away early and keep them away. Trae Young is going to score a lot of points and keep the Hawks in the game.
The Blazers do score a lot of points and the Hawks tend to give up almost 120 a night. Don’t be shocked if an old school ABA style game breaks out down in the ATL.
@Detroit Pistons | Saturday at 4:00 PM
Hopefully, the Blazers put away the Hawks and allow the starters to get some rest on Friday night. The Blazers are 4-6 this season on the second night of back to backs. This Pistons game feels like a scheduled loss. With only six games left after this, the Blazers need to win as many as possible to lock up at a minimum the fourth seed.
The Blazers are down to the final ten games of the year. Their magic number to clinch the fourth spot in the West is eight. So any combination of eight Blazer wins and Oklahoma City losses means the Blazers will get homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
There is also a 47% chance the Blazers can still get the third seed and a slightly larger chance at two home playoff series at home depending on how that 2-7 matchup goes.