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).