Portland Trail Blazers

Chauncey Billups era in Portland off to up-and-down start

Heading into the NBA's 75th anniversary season, the Portland Trail Blazers are owners of the longest active playoff streak - eight years.

The franchise puts that streak on the line in the 2021-22 season while being led by rookie head coach Chauncey Billups. Seven games in, the up-and-down nature of the results makes it difficult to establish any set pattern.

It's understood that seven games is too small a sample size but taking a look at the Trail Blazers results and more specifically, the margins of victory or defeat, will have you scratching your head.

Trail Blazers' first seven games of 2021-22 season
Date Opponent Result (Margin)
Oct. 20 vs. Sacramento L, 124-121 (-3)
Oct. 23 vs. Phoenix W, 134-105 (+29)
Oct. 25 at LA Clippers L, 116-86 (-30)
Oct. 27 vs. Memphis W, 116-96 (+20)
Oct. 29 vs. LA Clippers W, 111-92 (+19)
Oct. 31 at Charlotte L, 125-113 (-12)
Nov. 1 at Philadelphia L, 113-103 (-10)

The home opener for the Trail Blazers was against a talented Sacramento Kings, a franchise at the other end of the playoff streak spectrum with a 15-year drought. To everybody's surprise, Portland dropped the game despite a late run from an 18-point deficit.

Although the Trail Blazers beat down on the Suns - last season's Conference Champions - it was the second night of a back-to-back and the third in four nights for the Suns, who were 24 hours off comfortably beating the Lakers in Los Angeles.

They rode that loss to Los Angeles but turned the ball over 30 times and thus, got blown out by the LA Clippers. 10 days into the season, that's been the only win for the Clippers which probably underlines how much of an aberration that game is.

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"With 30 turnovers, it's hard to beat a middle school team," McCollum said postgame.

Portland bounced back from that loss by winning the next two against the Grizzlies and Clippers by a combined 39 points. So, which of these Trail Blazers are the real team?

Because a couple of days later, in Charlotte, the team drops a game by double digits to up-and-coming Hornets. And if that loss didn't hurt enough, the team rolled into Philadelphia on the second night of a back-to-back to lose by 10 against a team missing three starters in Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris and Ben Simmons.

If the up-and-down nature of the results wasn't enough, another puzzling feature of this start has been Damian Lillard's rough offensive production. Through seven games, although his playmaking is at a career-high with 8.6 assists, his points production is at career-low levels as he averages 18.6 points on 34.8 percent efficiency from the field and just 23.1 percent from beyond the arc.

The team's 108.3 defensive rating ranks them in the bottom third in the league at 21st, not much of a jump from their 29th ranked rating last year but not where the team or Billups would hope to stay.

Meanwhile, their offense has slid marginally to 110.0, good for the league's sixth-best offence, from their second-best of 117.1 last season but then again, seven games is too small a sample size to come to any conclusions.

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