After taking over the third seed in the Western Conference a couple weeks ago, the Portland Trail Blazers gained control of its destiny. So far, the team has done a fantastic job of staying on top of a crazy playoff race. A bad string of losses can send a team tumbling down in the standings, so Portland’s recent play isn’t going unnoticed.
Two huge double-digit wins
Portland did what it was supposed to on Tuesday when it faced the New York Knicks. After earning the major comeback win against the Los Angeles Lakers the night before, the question was raised whether the Blazers were out of gas. Damian Lillard was coming off a 19-point fourth quarter, so there was a real chance he used up all of his energy.
Luckily for Portland and Lillard, the team started off on fire. Lillard scored 16 of his game-high 37 points in the first quarter. He also fell one short of his career-high in 3-pointers made with eight. His hot shooting allowed him to check out early in the fourth quarter and rest up for the Golden State Warriors.
The Blazers hosted the Warriors for the final time this regular season on Friday. Things seemed a little easier for Portland when it was announced that Stephen Curry, among others, would miss the game. This was especially true since the Blazers beat the Warriors at full strength to start the current winning streak. Still, even without Curry, Golden State still had three all-stars, one of whom being a top three player in the world. Nothing about this game would be easy.
Golden State came ready to battle from the start. It was clear that Portland was riding the momentum with home court advantage, but the Warriors refused to fall behind. Every run that the Blazers made was immediately countered. It took Golden State half the third quarter to turn a nine-point deficit into a narrow lead. The Blazers managed to get it back and go into the fourth quarter with a four-point lead.
In what was supposed to be a game that went down to the wire turned into a big lead for Portland. Golden State kept it within single digits for most of the quarter, but the Blazers refused to blow the lead. There wasn’t a single player on the Blazers who dominated the fourth quarter. It was an all-around team effort. That was appropriate, as Golden State usually decimates its opponents in the exact same way. The Blazers rode a huge 38-point final quarter to a 125-108 victory.
Portland became only the third team this season to beat the Warriors twice. No matter who Golden State is missing for a game, a win over the defending champions is always impressive. This extended the Blazers’ winning streak to nine games, but how long can it last?
What’s ahead for Portland
The Blazers finish out the last three games of their five-game home stand this week. The team will host three tough Eastern Conference teams in the Miami Heat, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Detroit Pistons.
After the home stand, the Blazers make a short trip to Los Angeles to play the Clippers. The upcoming week doesn’t feel like much of a break, but with the Houston Rockets, Boston Celtics and Oklahoma City Thunder on the horizon, Portland needs to keep its wins together. It’s doubtful that Portland’s winning streak survives the next couple weeks. It is still in sole possession of the third seed. The Blazers are still in control of their own destiny. Just keep beating the teams they need to, and they could be going into the playoffs with a top three seed for the first time since 2000.