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Continued: Trail Blazers are blazing along with best record in the NBA

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Last update: December 18, 2013 - 11:27 AM

Third time’s the charm

The Trail Blazers can’t explain it, but they have owned third quarters this season.

They’ve scored 41 points in one third quarter this season and limited Chicago to only 12 points in another. They have outscored Philadelphia 40-15, Utah 40-13, the Bulls 34-12, Oklahoma City 35-21 and the L.A. Lakers 41-24 coming out of half and have outscored the opponent in 18 of 65 third quarters so far this season.

And they have been outscored in the third quarter of all four losses so far this season.

Filling roles wisely

The Blazers last summer never seriously pursued Wolves center Nikola Pekovic with a huge restricted free-agent offer, as some Wolves fans feared and suspected they might after their team engaged Portland forward Nicolas Batum in a convoluted courtship the summer before.

The Blazers instead made some smaller yet meaningful moves, acquiring role player Robin Lopez in a trade to fill their center need, signing veteran free-agent scorer Mo Williams and taking a chance on former No. 5 overall pick Thomas Robinson for little more than absorbing him into their cap space.

The X Factor

The Blazers have built the NBA’s best record without top draft pick C.J. McCollum, the 10th player taken in last summer’s draft.

Many Wolves fans clamored for their team to select the combo guard and his outside shooting ninth overall, but the Wolves traded that pick away after Detroit selected guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope eighth for two later picks they used to select Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng.

McCollum has not played yet this season because of a fractured left foot, the same injury that ended his senior season at Lehigh last January.

Youth movement

Six Blazers were born in the 1990s and eight on their 15-man roster are in their rookie or second NBA seasons. Included is second-year forward Robinson. The Portland roster’s average age is 24.8, even with 34-year-old Earl Watson on it.

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