Damian Lillard has been hesitant to suggest his team is turning the corner. After the Trail Blazers beat the Boston Celtics for a fourth straight road win, though, their franchise player confirmed what's been obvious since back-to-back losses to the Memphis Grizzlies last weekend.
Portland, despite an early rash of injuries, midseason roster shuffle and downright ugly April, really has turned its season around.
"I think it is," Lillard said on Sunday when asked if this is the best the Blazers have played all season. "I think at the beginning of the year we kind of struggled but we found a way, and then we weren't healthy, then everybody came back and we were healthy, but we weren't on a string, we weren't really clicking. I think now we're trending in that direction, where we're on the same page on defense and the same page on offense. Guys are getting in better grooves, and we're doing things that we haven't been doing, which is defending, rebounding, sharing the ball and doing the small things that it takes to win games."
C.J. McCollum, who dropped a team-high 33 points on the Celtics, alluded to Portland's collective experience in high-stakes games as more reason for optimism going forward. And like Lillard, he believes the Blazers are peaking at the right time.
"There's a better sense of urgency I think," McCollum said of Portland's recent improvement. "What do we got, eight games left? After this road trip we'll have six games left. So we know what needs to be done. We got a lot of guys that understand and have played in big games, and played in the playoffs. You want to be playing your best basketball heading there, you want to be as healthy as possible, and I think both those things are ringing true for us."
Not even the rarity of four consecutive road wins – three against winning teams – does the gravity of Portland's late-season about-face justice. Before getting right against the Indiana Pacers a week ago, remember, the Blazers had lost four consecutive games at Moda Center.
As noted by Rip City Radio's Jay Allen, Portland is the first team in league history to follow a quartet of home losses with a run of four victories on the road.
That historic disparity was gleaned at least somewhat by the tenuous nature of team performance on a nightly basis during this frantic regular season. Outlier results have never been more prevalent than in 2020-21.
But with the playoffs and play-in tournament fast approaching, it's obvious the Blazers, finally, have found a winning formula. Whether it's good enough for them to make noise in the postseason remains to be seen.