Blazers heading for disastrous season

Portland needs a run of wins, and fast
By Cliff Pfenning
AP photo

What a difference five months makes in the NBA, at least in the Western Conference.

Heading into the final game of a six-game road trip Monday in Chicago, the Portland Trail Blazers are 5-12 overall and carrying a four-game losing streak. That's good for 14th in the 15-team Western Conference, which puts the Blazers ahead of only one other squad- the Golden State Warriors at 3-14.

Golden State and Portland played in the conference final in June, with the Warriors winning in four games to reach their fifth consecutive NBA Final.

Injuries and roster changes have depleted both squads, but the Blazers seemed more likely to survive and contend for a playoff spot for the seventh consecutive year.

Even the recent addition of longtime NBA veteran Carmelo Anthony hasn't affected the team's results, as indicated by the 110-104 loss at Cleveland Saturday, the Cavaliers entering the game with only four wins themselves.

Damial Lilard and CJ McCollum seem to be carrying their weight in the backcourt, averaging 50 points per game between them. Anthony, after a year off from the game, has averaged 13 points per game in three starts. But, the stats and solid individual games just have not combined enough to turn into wins.

Portland's signature win so far, 115-109 at San Antonio Nov. 16, started the road trip with some hope as the team reached 5-8. But they got routed at Houston the following game and have not put together four solid quarters since.

The Blazers have a very key stretch starting Wednesday when they return to the Moda Center for four straight home games against teams that are all .500 or worse this season. Those teams include Minnesota, which is No. 8 in the conference just 3.5 games ahead of Portland.