Blazers drop third straight in 123-103 loss to Pistons
The Portland Trail Blazers dropped their consecutive game and the final game of their six-game Eastern Conference road trip to the Detroit Pistons, 123-103. Although CJ McCollum had an efficient 22 points and Damian Lillard made the best out of a bad shooting night, getting to the line 8 times, the Blazers defense was once again their demise. It was their third straight game of allowing 116 points or more and they squandered an opportunity to make up ground on nearly every team in their vicinity of the Western Conference standings.
The Pistons made their share of tough shots with the likes of Reggie Bullock and Steve Blake hitting shots in the faces of Portland’s defenders. But Portland was unable to get a handle on Reggie Jackson’s dribble penetration all night long as he finished with 30 points. Portland’s switches in pick and rolls were exposed by the effective post play of Tobias Harris and Marcus Morris. And of course, Andre Drummond was a one-man wrecking crew on the glass, finishing with 18 rebounds and 14 points, helping the Pistons out-rebound the Blazers 45-31.
Drummond went to work on the block early on. Plumlee had his hand full on the block and was unable to bother Drummond when he got his hands on the ball. And with the addition of Tobias Harris, the Pistons have more players who can exploit mismatches when teams switch.
Aminu got going with a couple of early 3-pointers when he was the open man, hitting 3 3-pointers in the first quarter. Despite Aminu feeling it from the outside, the Blazers still had to dig themselves out of a hole. It didn’t get a whole lot better as Lillard made a handful of careless passes that were picked off by Detroit defenders.
Lillard had four turnovers in the first quarter alone and the Drummond had nine rebounds in the first quarter, setting the tone for a long night on the glass for Portland. The Blazers trailed 30-16 after the first quarter but luckily for them, the Pistons bench has been an achilles’ heel all year for them and gave them plenty of opportunity to get back in the game.
The biggest hole for the Pistons second unit was at point guard in the match-up between former teammates CJ McCollum and Steve Blake. At this stage of his career, Blake has little chance against a player of McCollum’s caliber and McCollum reinforced that notion. After a scoreless first quarter, he poured in 9 quick points against Blake in the 2nd quarter and finished with 15 first half points.
Lillard started poorly, making some lazy passes and not getting anything going from the field. But he worked his way to the free-throw line on two consecutive possessions on his way to nine straight points. Thanks to Lillard’s play, McCollum’s dominance and the switch to a Meyers Leonard-Moe Harkless frontcourt helped the Blazers get back into the game after trailing by as many as 18.
Lillard had 11 points with 4 minutes left in the third quarter and had a few spurts in the game but didn’t take over. But more than needing another amazing game from Lillard, the Blazers needed something a little more ordinary: stops.
McCollum was getting wherever he wanted and Leonard opened up the floor, but the Blazers struggled slowing down the Pistons. The Pistons hit a few tough shots and took advantage of Portland’s switches but the Blazers rarely made things hard for the Pistons.
Meanwhile, the Pistons did an excellent job of making things tough on the Blazers when they didn’t have five shooters out on the court. Almost all of Portland’s big men were a negative tonight in this match-up save for Leonard. Leonard is effective at center in pulling dominant big men away from the rim and showed that again vs. Drummond.
With six minutes left, the Blazers got into the penalty and were down by 15 points. But that didn’t help them get closer. The Pistons starting line-up came back into the game and closed the Blazers out.
- The Blazers still had a successful trip, finishing the 6-game trip 3-3. But finishing that way when you started 3-0 still hurts. We’ll see if this recent stretch is something that gets them refocused on the defensive end where they’d had so much success previously.
- Ed Davis played just 8 minutes tonight and didn’t see playing time after his first shift. The Pistons are a really well-coached team and made things hard for the Blazers when they had big men on the floor that couldn’t knock down shots. Plumlee, Vonleh and Davis all had nights to forget. Portland’s best plan of attack was going small around Leonard but they just didn’t have enough defense tonight. Nobody did.
- The Blazers get a much needed dose of home before they head on the road again. They play the Wizards on Tuesday and then get two days off before they head to Oakland to face the Warriors in the first of a back-to-back which will wrap up Saturday vs. Orlando at the Moda Center. Although they don’t get a ton of rest, the Blazers have two great opportunities for home wins this week.
- We mentioned the Blazers got a lot of help and we’ll explain that in greater detail. The Mavericks blew a game in which they had a two-point lead and the ball with under 20 seconds left to the Denver Nuggets in overtime. Memphis lost to the Suns. Portland is still one game back of the Mavericks for the 6th seed after tonight’s games. Making matters worse, the Rockets pulled out an impressive win at Toronto last night to pull them within 1.5 games of the Blazers with 18 games to go.