Being that it’s only a week before Thanksgiving, prefacing statements with “I know it’s early, but…” still applies. Well, I know it’s still early, but the Blazers are off to their best start since the 1999-2000 campaign. The same season Portland finished 59-23 with the deepest team in the league. The same season Portland employed a starting five of Rasheed Wallace, Damon Stoudamire, Steve Smith, Scottie Pippen and Arvydas Sabonis and no one took more than 13 field goal attempts a night. The same Portland team who came within one historic fourth quarter collapse against the Shaq and Kobe-pre-first title Lakers from advancing to the Finals.
Chances are these Blazers won’t advance to the 2014 Finals or West Finals, but they have been one of the more entertaining League Pass squads in this still-young season. Portland notched its seventh consecutive win with a 108-98 win in the Barclays Center Monday night.
The dub improved Portland to 9-2, just a half game behind San Antonio and Indiana for best record in the league. A critical explanation for Portland’s quick sprint has been the play of their top three players. LaMarcus Aldridge poured in 27 points and eight rebounds last night in Brooklyn, while Damian Lillard added 19 points and nine assists and Wesley Matthews 24 points and six rebounds (shooting 52.6% from three).
Obvious room for improvement remains, such as Lillard improving his 39.4% shooting percentage. But sprinkle in better bench production with better defense – i.e. – Brooklyn scored 40 in the first quarter and 58 for the rest of the game – and suddenly a fast start adds up. Of course, an NBA season is a marathon and those treating it as a sprint normally collapse before crossing the finish line.
So if by next spring Portland fails to make the playoffs next spring, remember one vital stipulation. “I know it’s early, but…”