Blazers Beat: Portland needs to beat more good teams
What's ahead: Tough road tests greeted the Trail Blazers this week. After a Tuesday game at the Los Angeles Clippers, Portland plays the top team in the NBA Western Conference, Utah at 7 p.m. Thursday.
Then it's three games at Moda Center: 7 p.m. Saturday against Detroit, 7 p.m. Sunday against Miami and 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 13 against Boston.
That's four above .500 teams in the next five games.
What's behind: The Trail Blazers took care of business in beating the team with the worst record in the NBA Eastern Conference, downing Detroit 124-101 on March 31. It capped a 4-0 run on the road.
Damian Lillard had 33 points and 10 assists and the Blazers shot .512 from the field, .533 from the 3-point line (16 of 30) and .923 from the free-throw line (24 of 26).
Another team had the eye-popping numbers when the Blazers played Milwaukee on April 2 at Moda Center and lost, 127-109. Giannis Antetokounmpo was incredible with 47 points, including going 18 of 18 on 2-point shots (0 of 3 on 3-pointers), while grabbing 12 rebounds and blocking three shots. He tied Wilt Chamberlain's 1967 record for most 2-point makes without a miss.
Milwaukee shot .544 from the field, and Portland shot better on 3-pointers (21 of 54, .389) than 2-pointers (15 of 45, .333). Lillard had 32 points. Portland's reserves went 6 of 31 from the floor.
"Our team was excited for the challenge coming off four wins in a row, and we just got outplayed," Lillard said.
The next night, April 3, Portland had an easy win, 133-85 over Oklahoma City, as eight players scored in double figures (led by CJ McCollum's 20 points), and Jusuf Nurkic had nine points.
Enes Kanter had 17 rebounds. The Blazers made 20 of 46 3-pointers (.435). The Thunder went 8 of 34 on 3-pointers (.235) with 22 turnovers.
Playing well: The Trail Blazers beat a couple losing teams in the past week (Detroit, Oklahoma City), and Milwaukee beat them for the second time this season in convincing fashion.
The Blazers are handling teams they should beat, but not consistently beating good teams.
Entering Tuesday's game, the Blazers were 7-12 against teams .500 or better and 23-7 against teams below .500; Miami, which Portland beat March 25, has since moved above .500.
"The second part of the season is going to be a test for us, just to see if we can put it together against the best teams in the league," Lillard said after the Milwaukee shellacking. "And do the things that we need to do to be able to compete at that level."
Getting healthy: Only Zach Collins (ankle) remains out long term for the Blazers; Derrick Jones Jr. (right quad contusion) sat out the Thunder game.
There is not a timeline for Collins' return. He was seen not wearing a protective boot during last weekend's games.
"Everything is healing like it should be," Collins told NBC Sports Northwest's Jamie Hudson.
Big win: The 48-point win over Oklahoma City, which played without Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Luguentz Dort, was easily Portland's most lopsided win of the season. It had beaten Sacramento by 26 points and the Kings and Golden State by 25 points each.
It nearly became Portland's biggest rout ever. The Blazers beat Cleveland by 50 points in 1982.
CJ McCollum told reporters that he joked with newcomer Norman Powell that the Blazers blow out about four teams each season. "So I'm glad we we were able to get one done so we could get some rest and let some of the young guys play," McCollum said.
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