Do not look now, but the Portland Trailblazers find themselves with the best record out of the gate in this shortened NBA season. After tonight’s victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder 103-93, Blazers find themselves posting a 4-1 record, being atop of the Western Conference.
Every NBA coach will preach that defense wins games. Great defense is the best offense. In order to score more a team must stop their opponent from scoring and cause turnovers, giving them more possessions and chances to score. Portland is plus eight in rebound margin ranking second in the NBA, also one of the only teams to be in the top of the association in defensive and offensive efficiency.
This team has been different from past teams under current coach Nate McMillan. Traditionally most of the offense was run in the half court, with fast breaks coming off long rebounds. Point guard at the time Andre Miller preferred to walk the ball up. Adding point guard Raymond Felton from Denver, the tempo has sped up, running a fast break offense like their friends in Eugene on the gridiron. Baskets are coming bunches, leading to 101.8 points per game which is the fourth highest output in the league.
With Brandon Roy’s career ending knee injury, most thought it would leave a void in the team. It may have been a blessing in disguise because a new star was born. Team is rallying around fifth year pro LaMarcus Aldridge who is playing at a high level and evolving into a leader. A chip remains on his shoulders from getting snubbed from last year’s All Star team. It is evident he is eager to show he belongs in the conversation with the upper echelon players. The quiet and confident play speaks volumes. Once the ball is thrown in the post L Train has a knack for making the correct play. Whether it be scoring the ball or passing and finding the open teammate. An improved jump shot will also prove to be a lethal weapon in the repertoire. His 20.3 points per game ranks top eighth in scoring.
The Jamal Crawford factor is beneficial as a scoring anchor for the Blazers second unit with the poise to close a game in the fourth quarter like his best friend Brandon Roy did for many years. Most people do not know, but Crawford is the only person in NBA history to score 50 points or more for three different teams. With the way the team is playing defense, more opportunities may arise to shoot for him to add a fourth team to the list. With 15.8 points per game off the bench, watch out for Crawford to be in the running for the Sixth Man award.
Blazers will return home on Thursday to face the (4-3) Los Angeles Lakers.