Basketball’s Most Frequent Flyers

How the Trail Blazers Eastern Conference dominance is propelling them to another late-season playoff push.

Photo credit: Casey Holdahl

Following the Trail Blazers 123–110 win over the Cavaliers in Cleveland, the Blazers are riding a wave of momentum that has them feeling confident as we approach the postseason. They shot 85% in the first half behind a masterful performance from CJ McCollum (35PTS 7REB) in front of his hometown. At 3–0 on their current road-trip, and 4–0 in their last four games they are starting to put it together. With a meeting against the Celtics scheduled for Wednesday afternoon, a theme has been present on the court for the Blazers throughout the season. East coast dominance.

Including Monday night’s game, Portland is 17–4 against the Eastern Conference this season, that’s good for the best mark in the NBA. So what contributes to the Blazers dominance against the East? There’s several factors in play here, the first of which being the Blazers offensively potent back court of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. Another factor is the emergence of Jake Layman and his push for starting minutes with hustle and effort, but the player who has really been carving his own identity lately has been Jusuf Nurkic.

Over the first three games of this seven game road trip, Nurkic has been averaging an efficient 22–10–3, and has been dominant with fellow big man and newly acquired Enes Kanter (per Woj). For a team in the middle of a loaded conference nearing March, having everyone focused and giving effort is a must. However, one key factor that almost no one is taking into consideration is the sheer volume of miles that the Trail Blazers will have traveled this season.

Portland will lead the NBA in miles traveled by seasons end, with 54,333 under their belt. Source: Casey Holdahl. That kind of wear-and-tear can do one of two things to a team. It can either cause a squad to be fatigued and make their record suffer as a result, or it can strengthen their drive and make them even better as a unit. In their dominance of the Eastern Conference it’s not too far-fetched to say that the miles traveled have certainly bolstered their endurance throughout the season.

This graph created by Twitter user @EdKupfer represents miles traveled in the NBA, as you can see West Coast teams own a larger portion of the miles traveled due in part to longer distances between franchises as you head west and NBA scheduling circumstances.

This battle-tested Blazers squad is primed for a deep run with new pieces fitting in nicely, and the contributors doing their jobs. The NBA’s most frequent flyers are back on the road for another five games starting with a challenge against the Boston Celtics on Wednesday at 8:30 ET on ESPN. Will this streak against the East continue? Only time will tell, but the playoffs are on the horizon. Buckle up for some great basketball.

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