Portland Trailblazers v New Orleans Pelicans

Power Rankings: Back To Where They Started In Week 20

The Portland Trail Blazers have lost six of their last 10 games and and have won just once in the last 10 days. Three of those losses — at Dallas, at Houston and at home against Golden State — were well within their reach and the kind of games the Trail Blazers had been winning earlier in the season.

Even though they’ve endured tough loss after tough loss in the month of March, they still find themselves fifth in the Western Conference standings, which is, more or less, where they’ve been since before going 1-4 on the recently completed five-game road trip. The Warriors, after winning Sunday night’s game in Portland, are now 1.5 games behind the Blazers for the fifth spot, so Portland will have to get back on track, and quickly, if they want to avoid slipping deeper down the standings, though you could debate endlessly the merits of playing, say, the Rockets as the fifth seed as opposed to playing the Clippers as a sixth seed.

But while they’ve managed to avoid a precipitous fall down the standings, they won’t be so lucky in the Power Rankings. Going 1-3 in each of the last two weeks comes at a price and the Power Rankers are here to collect …

· Marc Stein of ESPN.com puts the Trail Blazers at No. 14 this week, two spots worse than last week …

The Blazers, after Sunday’s blown-lead crusher at home against Golden State, undeniably have the look of a team more likely to finish sixth in the West than they are to move back up into the top four. They’re 12-15 since that 31-9 start and have slipped from first to fourth in offensive efficiency.

It’s going to take some kind of run by the Blazers or a meltdown by one of the teams above them for Portland to get back into the discussion for home court in the first round of the playoffs. Right now, the goal is probably making sure they don’t slip any farther rather than hoping to move up.

Stein ranks Portland behind Phoenix at No. 13 and ahead of Brooklyn at No. 14.

· David Aldridge of NBA.com and TNT has the Trail Blazers at No. 9 this week, just one spot worse than last week …

Blazers’ slide has left them just 1 ½ games ahead of the Warriors for No. 5 in the West. You don’t want to be sixth in the West. Sixth means playing the Clippers, who are third in the conference. If L.A. keeps winning, it could mean Oklahoma City slides down to No. 3. You don’t want that, either.

Any matchup in the West is going to be tough, but I’ve got to disagree with Aldridge here. I’d rather play the Clippers than Houston, even with Lob City riding an 11-game winning streak. And the Blazers would get to stay on the west coast, which is preferable. I’d rather play the Thunder as well, though staying in Oklahoma City for nearly a week is … not my idea of a good time.

Aldridge has the Blazers behind the Bulls at No. 8 and ahead of the Mavericks at No. 9.

· Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports has the Trail Blazers at No. 8 this week, surprisingly the same as last week …

The Blazers desperately need LaMarcus Aldridge back. The All-Star has missed the past two games with a lower back contusion.

I agree that the Blazers could sure use LaMarcus Aldridge, but they had every opportunity to go 2-0 in the last two games without him. We might know more after today’s practice, but if I had to guess, I’d say Aldridge will miss Tuesday night’s game at home versus the Bucks, which is a game the Trail Blazers should be able to win without their starting power forward. “Should” being the operative word here.

Spears has the Blazers behind the Heat at No. 7 and ahead of the Mavericks at No. 9.

· John Schuhmann of NBA.com puts Portland at No. 13 this week after ranking then No. 11 last week …

We can confirm now that the Blazers’ initial post-break defensive improvement was schedule-aided. After a rough trip and a heartbreaker against the Warriors on Sunday, they’re 0-6 against fellow West playoff teams since the All-Star break, having allowed 111.2 points per 100 possessions in the six games. They’re back on the road this week, but play just four more games against the West’s top nine.

There are some very winnable games on the upcoming roadie and, as Schuhmann mentions, the schedule eases up a bit from here on our. But with games, albeit at home, against the Grizzlies, Suns, Warriors and Clippers on the horizon, it’s not going to be THAT easy.

Schuhmann has Portland behind Dallas at No. 12 and ahead of Washington, their opponent on Thursday, at No. 14.

· The panel at USA Today actually moved the Blazers up one spot to No. 7 in this weeks rankings …

Filling in for injured LaMarcus Aldridge while still gunning for the No. 4 seed in the West.

There’s the optimism and generally sunny disposition that USA Today has built their brand on. Go buy a subscription as a thank you.

USA Today has the Blazers behind the Heat at No. 6 and ahead of the Warriors at No. 8.

· Matt Moore of CBSSports.com puts  the Trail Blazers at No. 16 this week (!!!), a brutal seven spots worse than last week …

They’re starting to resemble Apollo 13, and they don’t have the fuel to get home.

The three-man Apollo 13 mission made it safely back to earth and the crew of James Lovell, Jack Swigert and Fred Haise all became national heroes, so I’ll take it!

Moore ranks the Blazers behind the Bobcats at No. 15 and ahead of the (wait for it …) EASTERN CONFERENCE LEADING INDIANA PACERS AT NO. 17!

· Matt Dollinger at SI.com has Portland at No. 11, falling two more spots from last week …

The Blazers, who are 19-19 since a 24-5 start, have lost five of their last six. The absence of LaMarcus Aldridge, who missed the past two games with a bruised back, is obviously partially to blame, but Portland’s recent woes go a lot deeper than just injuries. The revamped bench has regressed; Wesley Matthews is mired in an ugly shooting slump; and the Blazers are simply being outclassed by their Western rivals, losing to the Warriors, Spurs, Grizzlies, Rockets and Mavericks in a 10-day span.

Won’t argue with most of this, though to say the Blazers were “outclassed” by the Warriors, Rockets and Mavericks is, by any objective standard, incorrect. Outclassed by the Spurs? No doubt. The Grizzlies? Okay, sure. But you the Blazers were very much in the same class at Dallas, at Houston and last night against the Warriors at home.

Dollinger has the Blazers behind the Mavericks at No. 10 and ahead of the Nets at No. 12.

· Jason Patt at SBNation.com puts the Blazers at No. 13 this week, three spots worse than last week …

It feels kind of weird to have a 43-win team this low, but the Blazers are just 10-13 in their last 23 games and LaMarcus Aldridge is hurting. That’s what I would call trending down.

Patt has the Blazers behind the Raptors at No. 12 and ahead of the Wizards at No. 14.