Knee Jerk Reactions: Pistons… yes, THE Pistons 108, Blazers 101
photo courtesy of Detroit Free Press
- Will Barton.
The starters began the game in the same funk that plagued the team at the end of Sunday’s loss. Through the opening seven minutes, the Blazers were in the freezer with just three field goal makes. Nicolas Batum and Damian Lillard missed their first four shots and the Blazers needed a spark.
Enter the kid who goes by Will The Thrill.
From the moment he entered the game with 2:30 remaining in the first quarter, Barton played with activity and purpose – the purpose in getting buckets. Barton, always ready to shoot (which is meant as a compliment), has a mentality that he’s The Man from his days as a prep standout and go-to guy with his Memphis Tigers. He went to the rim, he didn’t hesitate with jumpers and he aggressively defended.
Barton was on the floor, with Ronnie Price and Meyers Leonard, when the Blazers rallied from a nine-point, first-quarter deficit. The replacements teamed with Wesley Matthews and LaMarcus Aldridge to give the Blazers the one-point lead in the second quarter. And although it was Aldridge’s and-one play that made it 36-35 advantage, Barton was in the thick of the action, scoring 10 points through 12 minutes of play.
When released from the bench, Barton will make some out-of-control plays but give him time because he’ll hustle and run against any second-unit fearless and free. When Lillard (0-9) and Batum (1-5) struggled through the first half and the team searched for a spark, it found the lift in Barton.
- Aldridge double-double.
Aldridge complained of a sore back on Sunday and did not play in Brooklyn, but showed no signs of that nagging injury as he scored 32 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Together with Matthews, the pair contributed 51 of the team’s 101 points.
- You Mad?
Aldridge may be the team captain but he’s laid back by nature. Lillard also wears that “too-cool-for-school” look and Batum will show emotion, but you better cover your groin when he does. As it became evident where this game was heading, Matthews steamed.
When the Pistons’ Brandon Knight outplayed Lillard for a loose ball, and the Portland rookie wound up sliding into the courtside seats, Matthews barked at official James Capers and quickly picked up a technical. Matthews looked like the one guy who stayed competitive and looked flushed with frustration with this loss. That’s good to see.
- Lillard’s 4-for-18 line.
Tough shooting start on this road trip for Lillard, he’s now 8 for 30 for 25 points. He’s been more steady in distributing the ball with 14 assists against six turnovers.
Like Lillard, Batum also shot 22 percent from the floor (2 for 9) for seven points. It wasn’t as bad as his 1-for-11 night in Oklahoma City on Nov. 2 – but it was still bad.
- Somebody give Leonard a band-aid.
Centers in the NBA take a pounding and it’s doubly hard down there when you’re young and still learning what to do. Leonard’s starting to show the battle wounds on his sculpted body – a long scratch on his right bicep, a red mark across his cheek, and now he’ll need some extra love from the trainer after his right knee took a battering.
In the final minute of the third quarter, Corey Maggette collided with Leonard’s knee. Immediately, Leonard turned away from the court, bouncing on his left leg and motioned towards the bench. Leonard winced and threw his head back in pain while stretching out on the baseline. The good news is he returned to the game to start the fourth quarter – for more of a pounding.
Guard Will Bynum chased down a defensive rebound and corralled Leonard’s head in the process. Leonard fell down and should’ve been given the call, but no whistle from the referee meant “play on.”
Through most of the night, Leonard was a boxing bag for Jason Maxiell and got manhandled by a smaller player. He’s reacting out there on defense, not nearly as active as is he on the other end. That’s a good way to get beat up.
This is going to take a while…
- Not to be negative but…
All five starters’ plus/minus figures in the negative.
- Detroit scoring 56 points in the paint
18 points more than its season average. Three plays encapsulated the Pistons’ free-for-all at the rim:
3rd quarter, 4:57. Pistons’ Rodney Stuckey dribbled out most of the shot clock while trying to set up a play after a timeout. With the time ticking away, he forced a shot and it looked as if the Blazers’ D had held up – until the unguarded Greg Moore caught the airball around three black jerseys and laid the ball off the glass and in.
3rd quarter, 3:09. Stuckey whip pass inside to Maxiell who slammed it over Jared Jeffries. Injury to insult … not only was this another score at the rim, but Maxiell’s elbow caught Jeffries in the chops. Jeffries briefly had to leave the game.
4th quarter, 5:10. Blazers had scored five straight to slice the lead to 95-85 when Pistons coach Lawrence Frank called timeout. After the huddle, Knight crossed up Lillard and got to the hole with ease for another layup. A momentum-killing layup.
- Blazers again outrebounded
Detroit 47, Blazers 42.
- Detroit shot 52 percent from the
9 for 15 (60%) from 3-point land.
- No deeee-fense!
Blazers allowed a pathetic Pistons (4-11) team to score a season-high 108 points.
– How Blazer fans might be feeling after this loss
Hint: not in a made-for-Disney mood.