(I'm a Blazer fan. This is exciting. Bear with me.)
Allen Iverson, quoted about the Blazers by the Associated Press: "From the beginning to the end of the game they beat us up and down the court and did whatever they wanted to do on the offensive end. They're playing with a lot of confidence having already won six in a row, and they just brought that momentum into here and they whipped us."
Portland is now 12-12. Teams that do not have a better record than Portland: Pacers, Rockets, Hawks, Bucks, 76ers, Nets, Cavaliers, Clippers, Kings, Bulls, Bobcats, Knicks, Grizzlies, SuperSonics, Heat, and Timberwolves. Almost nobody predicted that. Percentage of those teams that were predicted to finish tied or behind Portland in some pre-season predictions: 0.
A win or two more on this streak, and Portland might even crack the top page of John Hollinger's automated power rankings.
The Blazers' current win streak comes entirely without Greg Oden and largely without LaMarcus Aldridge, who has been averaging 18.7 points and 7.7 rebounds. Without Aldridge, Portland has beaten Utah twice, Denver, and Golden State. How could that be? I'm not for one second suggesting I like Portland better, long-term, without Aldridge. But while he lights up a box score, for whatever reason, Aldridge has not been on the court when Portland is playing its best, and has the worst plus/minus of Blazers playing long minutes. (Just behind him: Brandon Roy, which suggests playing long minutes as a Portland starter is not great for your plus/minus.)
How are they doing it? Basically, at almost all times of every game in the streak somebody or another has been hot. And that person has been getting the ball in position to score. Last night it was Channing Frye, who said after the game that the key to the streak is players working to get teammates open looks. It seems to be working. Blazer broadcaster Mike Barrett writes: "I've said this many times, but in the five games prior to this winning streak, Portland averaged 81 points per game. We had openly wondered how in the world this team was going to score points. Two weeks and seven games later, the Blazers have averaged 107 points per game and are two games behind NW Division-leading Denver. Now it gets really interesting, as the Blazers open a six-game homestand. We've used to talk of the need for a third scorer, and that became even more important after leading scorer LaMarcus Aldridge went down for a week. In the four games since, it's been a combination of Travis Outlaw, James Jones, and Sunday night, Channing Frye. That's what makes this Portland team such a difficult opponent to prepare to play. You just don't know what's going to hit you, or from where they're going to go for offense."
Portland has also been noticeably more physical lately, which Dave from BlazersEdge describes: "And remember how we talked about Denver bullying us around last time? No sir. Not tonight. We were up in their collective grills pretty much every minute. We got physical on defense and in the paint. When challenged in the middle portions of the game we stood up and shoved back. ... Joel [Przybilla] was a bundle of energy again tonight as well. If you have not seen him play the last 3-4 games you need to get in front of a TV or buy a ticket. The difference is night and day." Dave also adds: "Travis [Outlaw] was hitting shots tonight that just weren't fair. And this despite being called 'Charles Outlaw' twice by the Denver crew, even as he was toasting the team's collective hides. Bo Outlaw I can understand, but Charles? What do these guys do, peruse a book of baby names before the broadcast so they can choose what to call him? 'I think I will name him Jordan Christopher Outlaw!' Awww...that's cute!"