The Portland Trailblazers are not the worst team in the NBA. They’re far from it actually. However, their past six games would indicate otherwise. They’re tanking like there’s no tomorrow. Since their Feb. 24 matchup at home against the Golden State Warriors, the Trail Blazers have lost every game they’ve played, and they haven’t just lost, they’ve been laughed out of the building.
Not one of these games has ended with the score within 10 points. Only once have the Trail Blazers scored more than 100 points. Not once have the Trail Blazers held their opponents under 120 points. If you’re thinking that doesn’t sound like a good combo, it isn’t. Over their past six games, the Trail Blazers have been outscored by 194 points. That’s more than 32 points per game. There’s zero chance any team that’s actually trying to win loses by that much that consistently.
There have been a lot of bad teams in the history of the NBA. However, being outscored by even 150 points in a six-game stretch has happened only 11 other times in NBA history (this 2021-22 Blazers team holds two of those distinctions, more on that later). That being said, it’s happening more often in recent years. In 2021 alone, there were two such instances of teams being outscored by 150-plus over a six-game stretch.
Between May 1 and May 9, 2021, the Oklahoma City Thunder went 0-6 with a point differential of -152. The stretch kicked off with a 57-point loss at home to the Indiana Pacers. However, the Thunder held their own in the games immediately after. Where the Trail Blazers haven’t been able to hold a single game to within single digits, the 2021 Thunder battled hard with several competitive teams. The night after being trounced by 57, the Thunder almost took a game from the eventual Western Conference Champion Phoenix Suns, ultimately losing 123-120 though. Two nights later, the Thunder fell to the Sacramento Kings 103-99. Yes, I know the Kings weren’t good, but it’s still a close game and that’s more than the Blazers can say right now.
The other infamous streak in 2021 also came at the hands of the Thunder. Crazily enough, these two streaks had no overlap with one another. They were just that bad twice in the same season. Starting April 2 and ending April 10, the Thunder went 0-6 with a point differential of -171. Their first three games of that stretch saw the Thunder outscored by 109 points (36.3 points per game). However, the team was able to gather some dignity in their following three losses, losing at home by only 11 to the Hornets, ONLY 27 to the Cavs, and ONLY 24 to the 76ers. Think about that. I just mentioned two 20-point losses in three games and that was enough to not be the worst six-game stretch in NBA history. That’s how bad the Blazers have been. While Portland hasn’t suffered any 50-point losses during their stretch, they have slogged through five losses of at least 30. That has never been done before in such a short amount of time.
There have been two other such streaks since 2010: the 2018 Phoenix Suns, Feb. 2 to 12 — outscored by 160 points, and the 2014 Philadelphia 76ers, Feb. 9 to 24 — outscored by 154 points. It’s no coincidence that most of these streaks happen in February or later. That’s when tanking season is in full effect.
You know what’s even crazier about this current Portland streak though? The Blazers won their Feb. 16 game against Memphis, their most recent game before their awful stretch started. Their next five games alone were so horrendously bad that, even with a win on their resumé over their previous six games, the Blazers still were outscored by 152 points. Hence why I said earlier that the team had two six-game stretches where they were outscored by 150 or more.
What happened, man? The Blazers had won four straight games prior to this streak. They beat LeBron James and the Lakers, then defended home court against the New York Knicks. They went on the road and knocked off Khris Middleton and the Milwaukee Bucks (Giannis didn’t play) then beat the Grizzlies — currently the 2-seed in the Western Conference — in Memphis. How did that team go on to have the worst six-game stretch in NBA history immediately afterwards?
Well, of course, the NBA All-Star Game probably had something to do with it. Just as the team was getting into a groove and battling tough with some great teams, they had to take put a stop to their momentum and watch Steph Curry, the guy who eliminated them from the playoff three times in a four-year stretch, knock down 16 three-pointers on his way to a 50-point game and the All-Star MVP Award. That probably just pissed them off.
Of course, there’s also the fact that Damian Lillard hasn’t played a single game in 2022, but he wasn’t playing before the All-Star Game either, and like I said, they were playing well, or at least competently, before then. The Jusuf Nurkić foot injury which has kept him sidelined since the All-Star break definitely stings, but I don’t think anybody expected the team to hurt this bad in his absence.
On the bright side, the Blazers do face another struggling squad tonight in the Washington Wizards. Washington has lost two straight and five of their past seven. They’re on their second night of back-to-back road games on the West Coast. If there’s ever been an opportunity for a team struggling as mightily as the Blazers have been to walk away with a dub, it’s now. I guess we’ll just have to see how strong Portland’s tanking effort is. Will it be enough to lose by 30-plus again? That is the question.