PORTLAND, Ore. — The Portland Trail Blazers are the hottest team in the NBA.
Portland has won an NBA-high nine games in a row, with victories against the Warriors (twice), Jazz, Timberwolves, Thunder and Lakers during the streak.
During this streak, and really since Christmas, the Blazers’ resurgence has been all about Damian Lillard, who was honored Monday as the Western Conference Player of the Week after he averaged nearly 35 points in three wins last week against the Lakers, Knicks and Warriors.
Since Dec, 23, Portland is 24-10, the fourth-best record in the NBA. Only the Warriors (25-10), Raptors (27-9) and Rockets (27-8) have been better.
And even though several players have had their moments, no member of the Blazers has stepped up more than Lillard. Since Dec. 23, Lillard is averaging about 29 points and seven assists per game while making 48 percent of his shots, 41 percent of his 3-pointers and 89 percent of his free throws.
Lillard has been better with each passing month, too. In January, he averaged 25 points while making 43 percent from the 3-point line. In February, he increased his scoring to 31 points while shooting 36 percent from the 3-point line. So far in March, Lillard is averaging 32 points per game and making 46 percent of his 3-pointers.
Portland has a busy week ahead, with games against the Heat, Cavaliers, Pistons and Clippers.
Here’s a look at how Portland fares in the most recent batch of NBA power rankings:
CBS Sports: Blazers rank 3rd (up 1)
What they wrote: After a win over the Warriors, Damian Lillard said that the Trail Blazers were the “real deal.” With nine consecutive wins, and a hold of third place in the West, it’s really starting to feel that way. The big difference between this edition of the Blazers and the previous teams in the past? This team plays great defense. — Chris Barnewall
Sports Illustrated: Blazers rank 3rd (up 1)
What they wrote: Portland is the hottest team in the league, now having won nine in a row. The Blazers still only have a two-game lead on the Pelicans and Wolves in the bunched-up West. — Rohan Nadkarni
ESPN: Blazers rank 4th (up 1)
What they wrote: With long winning streaks for the Rockets and Pelicans both falling on Friday, Portland’s nine-game run is now the longest active streak in the NBA. Perhaps more impressive is that two of the Warriors’ past three losses have come at the hands of the Blazers. — Michael Schwartz
NBA: Blazers rank 4th (no change)
What they wrote: The Blazers’ nine-game winning streak now includes two wins over the Warriors in which Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum combined to average 65.5 points on an effective field goal percentage of 57 percent. As a unit, the Portland starting lineup has scored 114 points per 100 possessions over the course of the streak, but between the two wins over the champs were seven games in which the Blazers held every opponent under a point per possession, and bench minutes have been critical. In fact, only the Toronto bench has been better since the start of the Blazers’ winning streak and Portland has outscored its opponents by 18 points per 100 possessions with Zach Collins on the floor over the nine games. The rookie matched his career high (12 points) on 5-for-6 shooting against the Warriors on Friday. — John Schuhmann
USA Today Sports: Blazers rank 5th (no change)
What they wrote: The longest winning streak in the NBA belongs to the Blazers, who haven’t strung together this many consecutive wins since 2013. They have the NBA’s second-ranked defense (tied with Indiana) during this stretch, allowing just 99.2 points per 100 possessions. — AJ Neuharth-Keusch
Jared Cowley is a digital producer at KGW. You can reach him on Twitter at twitter.com/jaredcowley.
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