The Trail Blazers have surged into third place in a wild Western Conference playoff race thanks largely to an impressive level of depth, Jason Quick of NBC Sports Northwest writes. On a nightly basis, Portland’s success can be at least partly attributed to team defense and solid performances from role players.
“In the past two years, when we went on great runs, it’s always been C.J. McCollum has a great stretch, or I have a great stretch,” lone Trail Blazers All-Star Damian Lillard said. “But now, it’s much more collective – both this season and during this run.”
Quick cites Jusuf Nurkic‘s in-season improvement shooting around the basket, the pleasant emergence of rookie Zach Collins and a clutch performance from Shabazz Napier as some of the driving forces behind the Trail Blazer’s recent success.
There’s more from the Northwest Division:
- The Nuggets have struggled since offseason addition Paul Millsap made his return from an extended absence. Now the playoff hopeful club needs to figure out how to right the ship. “When a player of Paul Millsap’s magnitude misses 44 games and comes back with 22 games to go, that is a huge challenge,” head coach Michael Malone told Gina Mizell of The Denver Post. “Especially when the team was playing so well.“
- We wrote last month that Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor wasn’t interested in having his team sign Derrick Rose. That line of thinking changed after Jimmy Butler went down with his knee injury, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic writes.
- The Thunder may have found a suitable replacement for the injured Andre Roberson in recently bought out veteran Corey Brewer. “I’m not comparing him and Andre in any way personality-wise or player-wise,” head coach Billy Donovan told ESPN’s Royce Young, “But the one thing I will compare them, they both have a pop and a bounce to them where they play the game where they find the ball. They find it and are able to make plays.”