This season is turning into a very special one for the Portland Trail Blazers: They’ve already matches their win total from last season at 33, and have reached that mark faster than any other season in franchise history.
The Blazers, NBA champions in 1977, have had very good seasons before. However, this regular season start (33-11) is the best ever by number of games and date. The problem is not a lot will remember that if they fail to get into the second round of the postseason once again; something they haven’t been able to do since the 2000 season.
Before the game with the Minnesota Timberwolves, which the Blazers won 115-104, the focus was on Kevin Love and LaMarcus Aldridge facing off. Aldridge thinks he deserves to be a starter in the All-Star game, but didn’t get the votes. Kevin Love will be one of the three frontcourt starters for the West despite playing on the weaker team, although that shouldn’t matter when it comes to the voting.
Aldridge outscored Love 21-15 in two underwhelming performances from both players. Love was only 4-of-12 from the field, grabbing 13 rebounds. The Timberwolves had their entire starting five in double figures, getting 23 points from Nikola Pekovic and 30 from Kevin Martin; Even Ricky Rubio got himself a double-double with 10 points and 11 assists, but there was no bench to help them, getting only 15 points from their subs.
The Blazers? Aldridge led six players in double figures; as expected, the starting five all finished with 13 points or more, including 18 from Wesley Matthews. Mo Williams added the 16 points off the bench to provide the counter to the Timberwolves strong game from most of their starting players, and displaying the depth the Blazers were missing so badly last season when they collapsed at the end of the season after coming quite close to challenging for the playoff spot.
This might be the fifth season with the Blazers winning more than 70% of their games. They were a shocking NBA champion in 1977 (Winning 59.8% of their games in the regular season). In 1978 they had a 70.7% record in the regular season but lost in the conference semifinals. They waited for more than a decade before the Clyde Drexler teams under Rick Adelman reached they peak.
They won 179 games in 3 seasons from 1989 to 1992, reaching two NBA finals and another conference finals before starting to slowly slip away. The “Renaissance” came in the late 90’s under Mike Dunleavy. They made the conference finals after finishing with the best record in the West before losing to the Spurs (4-0) in the series; a year later they had their infamous collapse against the Los Angeles Lakers in conference finals, losing the series in 7 games after winning 71.2% of their games in those two years.
This team? On the same pace of wins, but with so little playoff experience among the key players (Mo Williams is the only one there to see more than limited playoff action), it’s no wonder that people still have doubts about them; maybe that’s the Blazers’ biggest advantage, especially if teams they face don’t take them seriously enough.