Tonight at 7:30 p.m. EST the Pistons will welcome the Portland Trailblazers to the Palace. The Pistons are on one day of rest after losing to the Celtics on Sunday as are the Blazers after losing to Toronto on Sunday.
The Blazers have struggled to meet lofty expectations this year, their defense is a miserable 108.9 per 100 possessions, and their offensive efficiency is a good, but not great 106.6, which is obviously not enough to overcome the defensive woes.
Damian Lillard still leads the charge for the Blazers scoring 25.9 points per game, launching off dribble 3s and drawing tons of fouls, one of the problems however is that he is only shooting 35.5% on his 3s this year, which isn’t bad when you consider the high volume and difficulty, but it is a bit of an issue for them, not to mention that he is almost comically bad defensively. C.J. McCollum is a stud, averaging 23.3 points per game and 3.6 assists while shooting the ball incredibly well, 40.9% from deep. A lot has been made of Lillard and McCollum maybe not fitting well together but make no mistake, both these guys are flame throwers. Jusef Nurkic is the new center for the Blazers, and he is doing pretty well 3 games into his career as a Blazer, he is a bully inside and also a fairly heady passer, he still turns the ball over and fouls too much, but he has gotten back to being a very efficient scorer inside. Maurice Harkless is a really good defender who can hold his own offensively, and Noah Vonleh is an honorary starter, (he only plays 13 minutes per game) but has at least found a near league average long ball from the 4 spot. Allen Crabbe is a very good shooter and a decent defender, if nothing terribly notable on defense. He is a nice wing player to have come off the bench, even if his contract is pretty absurd. Al-Farouq Aminu has struggled quite a bit but has been hurt on and off quite a bit this year, at the very least he is still a very good defender with length. Evan Turner is hurt, which is too bad because he seemed like he was finally starting to get into a good groove with the team. Meyers Leonard is big and can shoot 3s from the center spot, but he’s mostly played poorly this year, shooting just 33% from deep and 36.3% overall, he also doesn’t do a lot to help your defense. (to put it kindly) Ed Davis is a nice defense and dive center off the bench who is a good athlete and plays hard. Shabazz Napier has gotten a little bit of run lately with Turner out, but there still isn’t much to suggest that he is really capable of providing good minutes, but he does compete defensively.
The Blazers still have the same pieces that had a nice year last year, the problem is that there are just too many guys who are not quite playing up to the level they did last year, Lillard isn’t quite as efficient, Aminu has been hurt, Leonard has been trash. That said, they have the shooting and a pair of studs that give them a chance in any game.
Matchups to watch:
- Blazers vs The comeback: The Blazers have a thing for blowing big leads against the Pistons, there is no way around this. Admittedly, with their defensive struggles they kind of have a problem holding leads against everyone but whatever.
- Andre vs Nurkic: Andre is a lot better than Nurkic and should give the Blazers fits like he has since they lost Lopez. HOWEVA, Nurkic is the sort of big, strong, trash talking, bully that can occasionally be awesome for a night against good players. He could almost be compared to Marcus Morris in this regard, as Morris also has a thing for occasionally getting into duels with elite small forwards and playing toe to toe with them. Andre will have to avoid stupid fouls and count on his superior athleticism and Nurkic shouldn’t be a problem, but he still worry’s me a bit. That said, take solace in that the Blazers have had no answer for Andre lately.
- Pistons vs Dumb mistakes: Look, it happens with young teams. But the Pistons lost to the Celtics because of dumb mistakes across the board. Reggie took a terrible 3, Marcus had some horrible turnovers, everyone missed free throws, KCP completely blew a pair of defensive plays. They have to avoid those if they want to win games.
- Reggie vs Getting into the paint: Horrid 3 at the end aside, Reggie played a really good game against the Celtics and did a good job of getting into the paint and finding open guys. The Blazers are horrible at keeping people out of the paint or stopping them once they get there. Reggie still hasn’t had a game yet where he was able to consistently finish inside, and until he does I’m going to stay a bit worried. The Blazers are as good a team as there is to have a good game inside.
- Pistons vs Lillard/McCollum: Both of these guys are good enough to take over a game if you let them. KCP was totally ineffective against both of them in the previous meeting and whichever he takes he will need to do better. Reggie will have to come into this game with the sort of defensive effort he had against the Celtics as well, because you cannot give open looks to these two.
- Ish vs Pedal to the Metal: This may seem silly since Ish is always pushing the pace, but he really should go the extra mile tonight. The Blazers bench is really in pretty rough shape right now, and the Pistons bench has mostly established themselves as being quite good. They should try to squeeze as many possessions out of the minutes that the bench mobs are against each other as they can, and the bench mob could well be able to give the Pistons a sizable edge.
So in conclusion…
Wink knowingly at your friends if:
- Andre is on has 15/12 at halftime and Nurkic has 4 fouls in 5 minutes.
- Reggie is actually finishing in the paint.
- The Pistons are down by like 20 with 5 minutes left.
Run for the hills if:
- Nurkic becomes the Bosnian Bear and is unstoppable inside.
- Lillard/McCollum start hitting shots.
- The Pistons are not scoring with some amount of ease.
Opportunities for me to look stupid:
- Nurkic and Andre both have really good games.
- One of the Blazers backcourt catches fire.
- Reggie scores a lot of points.
- The starters play mostly even but the Pistons bench is too far ahead of the Blazers and the Pistons win fairly comfortably.
- Pistons 110 – Blazers 98.
What do you think? Can Andre own the paint? Can Reggie finish at the rim?