http://espn.go.com/nba/dailydime/_/page/dime-131125/blazers-adopt-winning-waysPORTLAND, Ore. -- Throughout the Portland Trail Blazers' 11-game win streak, there has been drama. There have been double-digit deficits, and after their hard-fought comeback against Golden State, shoving matches, ejections and suspensions. But Monday night's visit from the ailing and unstable New York Knicks was mostly absent of that drama, even if it was yet another reflection of how successful the Blazers' rapid rebuild has been since the start of last season.
Not two full seasons have passed since the Blazers were the team buckling under their own dysfunction; as most Portland fans have committed to memory, the 2011-2012 squad started 7-2 before the team succumbed to injuries, rumors of locker-room insurrection and general despair. That Portland has wiped that season from recent memory would be feat enough; that they are holding steady with the league's third-best record makes it doubly impressive.
Against New York, Portland got off to a fast start that never quite slowed. The Blazers feasted on the Knicks' lackadaisical defense in the early going, as the typically fluid Nicolas Batum bullied defenders for postups and Damian Lillard at one point waltzed down the wide-open lane for a rare dunk. The Knicks briefly closed the gap to nine points in the fourth quarter as Portland eased off the gas, but that was as much comeback as they could muster.
The engine of the Portland attack has been, and remains, its torrid 3-point shooting. The Blazers are shooting a head-turning 41.8 percent from deep on the season, and cooled down only slightly to 36 percent on Monday night. The Blazers' offense right now is a hydra: shooting guard Wesley Matthews entered Monday night's game leading NBA guards in effective field goal percentage, Western Conference Player of the Week LaMarcus Aldridge followed a 30-point, 20-rebound effort in Golden State with 18 and 14 against the Knicks, Batum is third among forwards with five assists a game, and Lillard averages just a shade more than 20 points a game.
Portland combines that offensive production with a defense that currently ranks 12th in the league in terms of defensive rating, thanks in large part to the stellar play of new starting center Robin Lopez. The pairing of elite offense with rapidly improving defense means that the Blazers may be primed to exceed expectations of merely snaring a playoff seed.