Glory days, these are not.
The Portland Trail Blazers are struggling through their worst season since 2012, a development that comes as a disappointment after eight straight trips to the NBA playoffs.
First-year head coach Chauncey Billups is trying to right the proverbial ship, and the Blazers are struggling to play solid defense.
Vegas and the Oregon sportsbook have taken note. The Blazers are at +24000 odds to win the Northwest Division, and they’re at +18000 to make it to the NBA Finals.
Despite Portland’s troubles, though, the team still has a chance to grab the final Western Conference playoff spot.
Defense and road woes contribute to poor record
Chief among the reasons why Portland is facing an off-year is the team’s defense. The Blazers have the third-worst defensive rating in the league.
Relative to the rest of the league, the Blazers are amid their worst defensive rating since the 2005-2006 season.
The Blazers have been terrible on the road, too, with just a 6-15 record away from home through 48 games. Through early-December, the team’s road opponents had a combined 118-93 record, and Portland was struggling in several key areas when playing away from home:
- Net rating: Worst in the NBA
- Defensive rating: Worst in the NBA
- Three-point shooting: 21st
If there’s any hope for the Blazers to salvage their season, they need to improve their road performances. And to this point in the calendar year, they have.
The team has gone 5-4 on the road through the first month of 2022. Three of their losses came to the Miami Heat, Denver Nuggets, and Chicago Bulls, who are all jockeying for playoff positioning.
Trailblazers have played relatively well in Lillard’s absence
The Blazers started 2022 in a foreboding way. Damian Lillard was sidelined with an abdominal injury on Jan. 3, then underwent surgery for the injury on Jan. 13.
He hasn’t played since Dec. 31. At the time, Lillard’s injury seemed like a death knell for an already struggling team.
However, Portland has fared relatively well in Lillard’s absence. The team has gone 7-6 so far in January.
Anfernee Simmons has stepped up as the team’s go-to scorer, notching seven games of at least 20 points. His statement game came on Jan. 3, when he scored 43 points against the Atlanta Hawks.
NBA Playoffs are still a possibility despite a rough start
As the Blazers look ahead in February, sports bettors in Oregon hope they can scratch back to .500 and fight for a playoff spot.
Over the next two weeks, Portland faces the lowly Magic (11-40) and the Oklahoma City Thunder (15-34) once each. The Blazers also have two important dates with the reeling Los Angeles Lakers (24-27), who enter February with the ninth-best record in the Western Conference.
If the Blazers can go 7-7 or 8-6 over their next 14 games, their March 5 showdown with the Minnesota Timberwolves could be crucial. Minnesota currently sits seventh in the West with a 25-25 mark.