With brilliant play since the All-Star break and a little help from his friends, Damian Lillard has led the Trail Blazers into sole possession of the Western Conference’s eighth seed (James Schumacher/Flickr).
With fewer than 10 games remaining on each team’s regular-season schedule, valuable playoff seeding is still up for grabs all over the NBA standings. Some teams, like the Celtics, Blazers and Raptors, look like they’re hitting their stride at just the right moment, building momentum that they hope will continue through the playoffs. Others, like the Hawks and Cavaliers, are just hoping that they can stop the bleeding before it’s too late. As always, the result is much debate and movement in the penultimate regular-season edition of our power rankings.
Biggest Jumps: Portland Trail Blazers (+8), Toronto Raptors (+5), Denver Nuggets (+5), New Orleans Pelicans (+5)
Biggest Falls: Minnesota Timberwolves (-14), Detroit Pistons (-9), Atlanta Hawks (-7)
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.”