The Portland Trail Blazers just submitted one of their most impressive performances of the season, improving to 34-23 after running away from the defending champion Golden State Warriors in their last game before the All-Star break.
If that sounds familiar, maybe it's because a year ago today, the Blazers produced one of their best showings of the 2017-18 season, beating the defending champion Warriors in their last game before the All-Star break to improve to 32-26. It seems like every year around this time, they go on a buzz-generating run, as that Warriors win was their first of 11 straight last season, and this season Portland is going into the break carrying the league's third-best net rating since December.
But springtime hasn't been kind to them, and the hype has understandably been tamped down this time around. The team has lost 10 straight playoff games dating back to 2016, and while the first six of those losses could be excused – coming against those same monolithic Warriors – the disastrous sweep at the hands of the New Orleans Pelicans last year leaves a sour taste.
The 2018-19 Blazers share a lot of DNA with last year's team, and with earlier iterations: The same head coach in Terry Stotts; the same three-man core of Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, and Jusuf Nurkic; and mainstays Al-Farouq Aminu, Mo Harkless, and Evan Turner headlining a crop of role players.
For a while now, sameness has defined the Blazers. They've straddled the line between thriving on familiarity and growing stale from too much of it. Comfort can breed success, but it can also breed stagnation.