Blog Entry

3-Up, 3-Down: Blazers aren't going away

Posted on: March 1, 2011 8:55 pm
Edited on: March 1, 2011 8:56 pm
 
Posted by Royce Young



Each week we give you three teams trending up and three teams trending down in correlation with our Power Rankings. Check out the latest edition of CBSSports.com's Power Rankings here.

3-UP

1. Los Angeles Lakers (3): Look out NBA. The Lakers might be waking up.

After dropping the most embarrasing game of the season to the Cavs before the All-Star break, the Lakers have stormed out to win four straight, including big wins over Atlanta, Portland and Oklahoma City. They're rediscovering that championship defense and finally, are looking healthy. Ron Artest is contributing, Kobe Bryant is playing a bit better within the offense and Pau Gasol is asserting himself. It's been a bit up and down (get it?) for the Lakers this season, but they might be coming to the top at the right time.

2. Portland Trail Blazers (7): At some point, Nate McMillan has to get some major love for Coach of the Year. Please people, please. I mean, look at what he's worked through.

Another season for the Blazers, another year of dealing with adversity and injuries. But Portland went from sellers to buyers right before the deadline when the team started winning. The Blazers have gone from the brink of playoff contention to now fifth place in the West and the only real threat to the Thunder for the Northwest crown. With Brandon Roy back (somewhat), Marcus Camby on the way and the addition of Gerald Wallace, the Blazers are poised to make noise the rest of the way.

3. Indiana Pacers (18):
They just keep climbing under interim coach Frank Vogel. They're playing looser, more confidently and with some serious passion. They've dropped two straight but caught a nice break at the deadline when one of their main competitors for the eight-seed essentially dropped out when the Bobcats sold off big pieces.

They've scored at least 100 points in every game but one under Vogel and their two recent losses aren't bad ones (Phoenix and Utah). The Pacers will be in the discussion for the playoffs the rest of the way, which certainly wasn't something we were saying two months ago.

3-DOWN

1. Orlando Magic (9): Orlando is slipping, and not just in the standings. They're going to be fine heading into the postseason. They'll likely win the Southeast and have the four-seed. They'll likely be good enough to win their opening round series. But this team made its splash in December with the Gilbert Arenas deal and it's not really working out.

Without Dwight Howard's hero play, this team is down three or four spots in the East and maybe not even competing for a playoff spot. Other teams got better at the deadline. And while the Magic already played their cards, they may have called on the wrong hand.

2. Detroit Pistons (30): Could things be more ugly in Detroit? The team banded together to win Monday, but this situation is ugly. John Kuester is hanging on by a thread despite a vote of confidence from Joe Dumars. Players on the team are trying to say things are cool now. But the team is in a total state of disarray.

The shame is, they could totally be a playoff contender in the pathetic lower half of the East. Win three straight games and you're right in it. They're only 5.5 back of eighth right now and if Detroit could just get its act together, they actually have quality enough players to at least make a push.

3. Oklahoma City Thunder (11):
The Thunder improved themselves greatly at the deadline. They went from a definite second-round exit, to a legit Western Conference contender. The main deficiency was remedied in acquiring not just Kendrick Perkins, but Nazr Mohammed.

But right now, the team has dipped a bit. For the first time this season they've dropped three in a row and won't have the services of Perkins for at least two weeks. OKC will be fine, but the Blazers aren't just handing the Thunder the division. Once OKC gets healthy and has its new front line in tact, it'll be tough. But right now, the Thunder's taken a bit of a turn down.
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