Now they know. They know they can not only compete with any team in the League but they have a legitimate shot against even the very best teams in the League. It doesn't hurt they start with a soft schedule after the All Star game.
First up are the Memphis Grizzlies. The Grizzlies have some nice players, guys like Rudy Gay and intriguing young players in Conley, Marc Gasol, and so forth. One thing they do not have is enough talent to compete with a Blazer team that is figuring out just how good they are. Portland will kick off the post-break festivities with a blow-out win.
Next up is an improved Atlanta Hawks team. While Atlanta is not necessarily as good as they looked against Boston, they are moving in the right direction. Joe Johnson is a high level scorer, they have a good veteran at the point in Mike Bibby, and Al Horford can do some damage. However, the Blazers can come at them in waves and have the talent to overwhelm Atlanta. Another easy win.
The Clippers might have run up the white flag by this point in the season or they might find their new players mesh very well and be surprising people. From a distance, I hope it is the latter. Clip fans have suffered a long time. They will keep suffering as Portland closes out the home stand with another win to go a surprising 15 games over .500.
Next up is a wake-up call as they go to Houston. Houston is a fantastic regular season team and the Blazers might be a bit overconfident at this point. Houston will hold serve.
The next night is a back to back as Portland goes into San Antonia. Beating the Spurs in San Antonio is a tough task at any time. However, in the mid to late season when they are gearing up for the post-season, Greg Popovich almost always has them playing at a high level. Look for them to keep their dominance of Portland going.
They close out the month in Minnesota, a team that by now will be playing the role of spoiler. But they will also play the role of "get-well" game for Portland as Portland salvages one of the three road games to finish the trip 1-2.
For the month they went 8-4. Things are looking good for a play-off spot and a good one.