What to Watch For on Trail Blazers' Six-Game Road Trip
Portland embarks on its first extended road trip of the season. Here's what I'm going to be watching.
The Trail Blazers' first two weeks of schedule have been home-heavy, and they've opened an impressive 5-2. Now, their first big test of the season begins with a six-game road trip, their first of three trips of that length and arguably the toughest of the three in terms of opponent strength. It kicks off with back-to-back games tonight and Saturday in Phoenix, followed by Miami on Monday, another back-to-back in Charlotte on Wednesday and New Orleans on Thursday and wrapping up in Dallas on Saturday.
That's four of five opponents presumed to be playoff teams, one of which (Miami) has already beaten the Blazers this season, and another (Phoenix) that Portland beat in overtime but has looked as good as any team in the league since then. Even the one presumed lottery team on the trip (Charlotte) has been competitive in games against better teams so far this season. There are no easy wins to be found.
Portland will also be shorthanded for at least the first part of the trip. Damian Lillard, who has missed the last two games after suffering a right calf strain in last week's loss to Miami, has been ruled out for the first of the two Suns games. I've heard he isn't far away from a return, but with it being this early in the season, the Blazers are being ultra-cautious. Anfernee Simons, who had 31 points in Wednesday's loss to the Grizzlies, is questionable with left foot inflammation.
No matter how you look at it, this is going to be a tough trip. Here's what I'll be watching for over the next nine days: