Under the leadership of Coach Terry Stotts (pictured), the Portland Trailblazers have exceeded expectations and are vying for the playoffs. (Wikimedia Commons)

Under the leadership of Coach Terry Stotts (pictured), the Portland Trail Blazers have exceeded expectations and are vying for the playoffs. (Wikimedia Commons)

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After a summer of roster upheaval, highlighted by the departure of LaMarcus Aldridge, the Portland Trail Blazers have been finding their way on the fly. Since falling to the Warriors by 20 on Jan. 8, they’ve caught fire, winning 15 of 18 games, including a blowout of those same Warriors. The knowledgeable Dane Carbaugh hangs with the guys to explain Portland’s scorching play, C.J. McCollum’s emergence, Damian Lillard’s excellence and so much more. Located in the City of Roses, Carbaugh has worked for SB Nation and Sporting News, among other outlets. He’s a skilled NBA video analyst for Vox, Blazer’s Edge, Hardwood Paroxysm and FloHoops. The Renaissance man, whose videos appear here also has his own podcast with Yu Miyagawa called “Between Me and Yu,” which can be found on iTunes.

Some particularly noteworthy clips can be found below:

7:15 – 8:10 on Damian Lillard’s underdog mentality: “(The underdog mentality) is definitely a part of his process… and what has happened to him by choice… He has the loyalty factor. He wants to put on for the city. He got MVP chants while he was at the free-throw line the other day.”

8:45 – 9:35 on C.J. McCollum: “He’s been obviously crucial to the offensive success. They’re (Lillard and McCollum) one of the top offensive scoring duos in the NBA…He took what was good both per 36 numbers and per 100 possessions numbers in his first couple years in the league and adapted them into starter’s minutes… He’s really adapted to the fact that he now has a different role when he starts versus when Damian goes out… I’m not super-convinced he’s the Most Improved Player. My vote is still probably going to go to Will Barton.”

11:20 – 13:00 on Portland’s front office: “Neil (Olshey) has been getting bargains anywhere he can… Good for Neil for finding value. I think Paul Allen picked the right guy with Neil and Neil has stayed with Terry Stotts this whole time. And it’s really panned out. The Blazers have been unlucky historically, but grabbing Damian, having CJ pan out, having Allen Crabbe pan out, whether he stays in Portland or not, even the development of Meyers Leonard as a 3-point shooter last year… a lot of those are positive things (for a) organization going in the right direction.”

14:45 – 15:05 on the Blazers’ overlooked continuity in a season in which they lost four starters: “You have players that have been in the system… they know Terry Stotts’ offense in and out!”

16:30 – 17:10: “Allen Crabbe works his butt off. There’s stories that he walked to practice his rookie year. He has tools that are built to succeed. He’s 6-4… Among NBA shooting guards, his wingspan is in the 90th percentile. He loves to jump passing lanes. It’s hard to block his shot. He really knows how to get around those screens.”

20:05 – 22:10 on Portland’s playoff hopes: “They have one of the hardest strengths of schedule to close out the season. Portland just needs to do what they’re doing. A big thing for them would be staying healthy… They’re in a good position, because the West isn’t as good as in years past… It was the perfect year for them to come on the way that they did. If they can hold on and Memphis keeps dropping lower, there it is, playoffs.”

23:45 – 25:40: “Do they have a chance against any of those first two teams? No. Golden State and San Antonio are both having historic seasons, so absolutely not. Let’s be realistic about it. The team (Portland) is great, but not in a seven-game series… Golden State would defensively game-plan for him (Lillard) and totally piss him off.”

27:55 – 28:55: “Lillard, to me, has come along a little bit better, especially in terms of his pick n’ roll coverage. He’s engaged and he knows more tricks. He’s totally stolen the whole ‘I totally got fouled by a moving pick’ type of thing… I see C.J. doing a lot of that (too)…They’re not necessarily hapless…That’s the whole knock against this team: ‘Oh, you can’t play those two guys together. Those two guys can’t cover anybody. That team’s never gonna be good enough on defense to make it anywhere in the playoffs.’ Well, they’re proving us wrong about that, and that’s owed to their continued time together, their continued slow growth on the defensive side of the ball and the strategy by the coaching staff.”

29:25 – 30:45: “The biggest problem they have is that when they’re up, they let teams back into it. Consistency is still an issue for them over the course of the game. They’ve gotten a lot better at closing… They’re not a frontrunning team. They’re led by the guy with the biggest chip on his shoulder, ever! That’s the kind of guy who wants to come out and make it Lillard Time and score the bucket at the end of the game.”

Music: “Who Likes to Party” by Kevin MacLeod