A Strong Start In Portland

 

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY BUREAU – After five days of action and 38 games, six NBA teams (three in each conference) remain undefeated. The New Orleans Hornets are obviously the biggest surprise of the group, but it’s hard not to also be impressed with the Portland Trail Blazers, who stand at 3-0 after Thursday’s win over previously unbeaten Denver.

It’s very early, but the Blazers are one of two teams who rank in the top five in both offensive and defensive efficiency. The other team is the Atlanta Hawks, who have only played the Nets and Wizards.

Two of the Blazers’ three wins were against likely playoff teams: Philadelphia and Denver. The third came against Sacramento, who beat the Lakers a night earlier and who hung tough with the Bulls on Thursday.

The Blazers’ win over the Nuggets was a strange one, with Portland committing 25 turnovers and allowing 28 fast-break points. They won with shooting (52 percent from the field, 91 percent from the line) and defensive rebounding (43 defensive boards vs just three offensive boards for Denver).

And while the Nuggets may be one of the deepest teams in the league, the Blazers proved that they have plenty of weapons too. They have two guys – LaMarcus Aldridge and Gerald Wallace – in the top 20 in scoring thus far, but it was three other guys who scored 20-plus points on Thursday.

Joe Freeman of The Oregonian has the story

So how did the Blazers improve the 3-0 through it all? Well, it came courtesy of a this-is-what-I-can-offer performance from new point guard Raymond Felton, a slump-busting game from Wesley Matthews and a scoring burst off the bench from Jamal Crawford.

Felton started the day at the Blazers’ morning shootaround by enduring a barrage of questions from reporters about facing his old team. Felton, whom the Blazers acquired in a draft-day trade from the Nuggets for Andre Miller, said there were “no hard feelings” and insisted it would be any old game.

That wasn’t quite the case.

Felton finished with 23 points, six assists and five rebounds — easily his best game with the Blazers — and saved his best for last. As the Blazers were clinging to a late 104-100 lead, Felton scored the final seven points and drew a timely charge on Ty Lawson in the closing seconds. He may not have had any extra motivation, but it certainly wasn’t any old game.

A few weeks ago, Portland was seemingly reeling from the retirement of Brandon Roy and another setback for Greg Oden. But Nate McMillan has once again led his team through the fire.

Now, the Blazers must take their show on the road. Their schedule has yet to provide much adversity, and they’ve now got two days off. But they play nine of their next 13 games away from the Rose Garden, and we’ll see what they’re really made of in the next week, when they face the Clippers (at L.A. on Sunday), Thunder (at OKC on Tuesday), and Lakers (at home on Thursday).

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John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. Send him an e-mail or follow him on twitter.

37 Comments

  1. D Lion says:

    well said, Andrew. Last year Aldridge and Wallace showed what they can do offensively, but now pretty much everyone on the floor can score in big numbers(except Camby who gets his double figures in boards), as was shown against Denver. Getting Felton and Crawford was an awesome move and they make the Trail Blazers a championship-contending team.

    And yes, Portland WILL get past game 6 of round 1 this year!

  2. jephro says:

    hey, leave pete alone. He said he was wrong, get over it. Blazers will definitely make playoffs. Hopefully if and when Oden’s back and we add a scoring center(no dis to camby) we’ll be one of the top teams for either conference. But c’mon, the season is way young, we haven’t been on the road yet, and we just played a game where we turned the ball over 25 times!! Holy cow. Cautiously optimistic here. Go Blazers!

  3. sanel prosjanovic says:

    Pete,you are an idiot.
    Annd for the blazers..it doesnt supprise me that they are 3-0 beacuse i know we have a great team and those games are games that we have to win.. Love the blazers rip city babbbyyy

  4. Brian says:

    Let me be the ninth person to point out that the Blazers first two games were back to back. Because eight simply isn’t enough.

  5. anon says:

    Oh my gosh! I think we know that Pete was mistaken. All drop it please? They’re a great team and no-one should be surprised if they have a great year now.

  6. Cem says:

    Blazers look damn good…what happened to Oden?! I missed that (Lakers fan)….and didn’t they pay dude $8MM?! WHEW

  7. Shashank says:

    Still can’t believe that the analysts at TNT didn’ pu the blazers in the playoffs…

  8. Andrew says:

    Blazers are sure looking good this year. Gotta love that new line-up with Felton and Crawford coming off the bench. Possibly 2nd in the West? I think yes.

  9. lsjogren says:

    Blazers have got pretty good talent this year. There was some poll ranking NBA players I saw a couple weeks ago and 6 of the Blazer players were among the top 100, and that is of course not counting Brandon Roy.

    However, some of their player strength is ageing veterans Camby and Thomas so they will have a challenge to keep up the quality of their roster in coming seasons. They will need to get some success out of the players they draft. Nolan Smith and Elliot Williams are question marks so far since McMillan doesn’t tend to play rookies much.

    I was really impressed with rookie Ish Smith, I wish Blazers would get a super rookie like that once in a while who can go in and play starter-caliber ball from day one.

  10. riverman says:

    Finally a good article about the Blazers without emphasis on Roy or Oden. I love this team. I think they are as good as any top team in the league Thank you John for writing a sensible article

  11. PeteWeDdidPlayAbackToBack says:

    Pete, the first two games were back to back.

  12. lupe says:

    is there anyone who still believes in the “potential” of greg oden? i dont even think that greg oden himself does..

  13. Bryce says:

    Why did 80457608954 people correct Pete?? We get it already.

    But for once (aside from Oden) we have a healthy squad and LOTS of weapons. When your top 2 scorers go for 13 and 3 other players get 20+ points, that shows something. Also, we are no run-and-gun team like the Knicks or Warriors. We can run yet can still get back on D (2 all-nba defensive specialists and 2 great wing defenders in Matthews and Batum). But we will be tested on the road because the next 3 games won’t be easy.

    RIP CITY!!!

  14. Rick says:

    Not true. First 2 games were back2back. Wednesday off 3rd on Thursday.

  15. HoundDog says:

    Actually they have played 3 games in 4 nights

  16. Rafael says:

    …Oden went down/delayed comeback AGAIN? I’d go do something else. What a waste.

  17. pete is wrong says:

    They played on Monday and Tuesday. I guess there is a magical off day in between there somewhere now.

  18. Elven says:

    Portland is an exciting team this year and I am ready to see if we can keep up this team chemistry. I think that losing Roy was a heartbreaker but it helped us overcome adversity and press on into a new team.

  19. pete says:

    I am not surprised with 3-0 start considering the Blazers have played all three games at home with a day off between each game

    • Gold Biscuit says:

      Their first two games were back-to-back.

    • Elven says:

      Pete, for clarification the first two games were back to back for the Blazers with one night off before Denver.

    • B-ROY!! #7always and forever says:

      yup…. the rose garden is the best place to play in the nba cause our amazing fans fans ;) 162 straight sell outs!!! and they played 3 games in 4 DAYS!!!!!! haha…. and i aint surprised either cause blazers are a heck of a team ;) =P HAHA GO BLAZERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!<3

    • Aaron says:

      There was no break between their first two games.

    • Chuck says:

      Pete is wrong. Ptown Beat Phily on Monday, than blew out Sacramento on Tuesday, rested a day than came to play on Thursday.

    • Christina says:

      correction Pete: Blazers played Philadelphia and Sacramento in back to back games and had one day off between the Sacaremento game and the Denver game.

    • Ted says:

      The Sacramento game was a back to back btw.. and they had just got done beating the Lakers.

    • Christopher says:

      Actually, Pete, the Blazers played Monday and Tuesday, had a day off before playing the Nuggets on Thursday.

      The 3-0 start is great; it proves that the Blazers have won games which they are supposed to win. The next three games will be tough, but not insurmountable. There’s no reason to think they can’t win any or all of them.

      • rob says:

        Hey Pete! You’re wrong!

      • pete says:

        Ok, I will own up to the mistake all of you pointed out. But the real fact remains that they played at home with a day off between the 2nd and 3rd game while game 2 was against a young Sacramento team who also played the night before. Blazers week one schedule is favorable than most teams. so let’s not forget that fact . the real test begins on the road then we will know what we have here.

    • restinpeacecity says:

      Nope they played Monday (philly), Tuesday (Sac) and Thursday (Nugg).

    • Justin says:

      The blazers actually started with a back to back.

    • Dustin says:

      Pete, get your facts straight. Portland has not had a day off between their 3 games played. their first two were back to back games.

  20. ko0kie says:

    blazers and nuggets are both underrated teams… I think they will upset some contenders this year.
    the western conference is going to be very interesting this year..seems like there are about 12 teams that could make the playoffs… or not ;)

  21. B-baller says:

    RIP CITY!!!!!!

  22. B-ROY!! #7always and forever says:

    wow… 3-0!!!!!!!!!!!!!! PEOPLE UNDER ESTIMATE THA BLAZERS…. BETTER WATCH OUT ;) GO BLAZERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  23. Portland’s 3-0 start is not surprising to me at all considering that I expected to have a 3-0 record at this point of the season.

    http://randomnbafan.com/12/22/2011/portland-trail-blazers-2011-2012-game-by-game-predictions/