In a Nutshell
The Blazers register a perfunctory performance strewn with missed opportunities and turnovers but LaMarcus Aldridge proves gold in the fourth quarter yet again, allowing Portland to escape with the win.
In yet another copy-and-paste effort on the road against a sub-par team, the Blazers started this game with sloppy offense and slow defense. Portland failed to close out on the only shots Detroit likes to take: mid-range jumpers. Shooter after shooter found themselves with 2-3 feet of space on the jump shot. This made Detroit's normal Vanilla Ice offense look almost Eminem-esque. Tracy McGrade and Tayshaun Prince took turns shooting over Andre Miller as the Blazers couldn't disguise their small defense. Portland's bigs couldn't keep their counterparts off of the offensive glass either. On the other end LaMarcus Aldridge did damage and Wesley Matthews busted out of the gate with torrid outside shooting. Everything other than just described looked lousy on both sides. Detroit led 21-20 after one.
Portland's second unit looked surprisingly good on offense early in the second quarter. The key to their success was ball movement, an eventuality for which the Pistons were woefully unprepared. Crisp passing led to attempts at the hoop and open J's. That lasted all of four minutes. Then the Blazers got a collective case of the stupids on offense, chucking up any shot that struck their fancy. Detroit rebounded and ran. Any progress the Blazers made got flushed with the Pistons' fast break attack. So Portland decided to grind out the usual zone defense. Detroit obliged by turning over the ball and missing shots, which Portland then rebounded and ran on. The end result of this back-and-forth was a relatively easy 28-27 quarter in Detroit's favor, shooting percentages for both teams hovering around 50%, and a 2-point Piston lead at the half.
In the third period LaMarcus Aldridge, heretofore scoring in the post and off of occasional jumpers, finally got out ahead of the slower Detroit bigs. He scored repeatedly on the run, beating everyone else down the court. A little more juice from Matthews plus some Andre Miller baseline jumpers allowed the Blazers their second straight 27-point period. The Pistons' offense turned predictably awful but they took advantage of Portland's slow lateral movement and rotations, making a steady parade to the foul line. Portland won the quarter by 6 but could have taken it by 16 with a little more energy and attention. Portland led 74-70 after three.
All heck broke loose in the fourth period. The Blazers began the quarter by running again. Detroit couldn't keep up. The Pistons retaliated by stroking multiple three-pointers. The Blazers couldn't close. Portland helped their opponents by coughing up the rock over and over and over and over. As far as Andre Miller was concerned it was less orange leather and more greased pig. Having run throughout most of the third and working on his millionth straight 40+ minute game, Aldridge was visibly gassed in the fourth. Instead of the first player down the floor, he was often the last. His rebounding went the way of the dodo. Fortunately for Portland the pick and pop never gets tired. LMA hit jumper after jumper to keep Detroit at bay. With a chance to tie and less than a minute on the clock, the best the Pistons could do was barf up a sideways, covered three-pointer. The Blazers got the rebound they needed and free-throwed their way to the win. 105-100 Portland.
It's not just the slow starts that are aggravating in games like this. Letting the Pistons shoot 50% at any point in the game following their second field goal attempt is near-unconscionable. Portland's guards were brutally bad on defense, getting blown by like Amish buggies. Detroit shot 51.5% for the game. The last time they saw that number was probably at the Ben Wallace free-throw shooting classic.
Quick notes on these.
Aldridge Shot 12-17 from the field, scoring from multiple positions, and also drew 13 free throws, hitting 12. His 36 points were all that stood between the Blazers and an embarrassing loss. He was huge in the fourth. Update: After the game, the Blazers sent out word that Aldridge became the first player in franchise history to score 36+ points in three consecutive games.
Wesley Matthews went bonkers in this game, shooting 7-11, 4-5 from distance, 8-8 from the foul line, and notching 7 rebounds with 5 assists. He and Nicolas Batum helped save Portland from disaster on the boards when the bigs couldn't. (Aldridge, Joel Przybilla, and Dante Cunningham combined for 9 rebounds tonight. Yes, for the whole game.)
Andre Miller had a beautiful 15-point, 12-assist night on 5-6 shooting except for his 9 turnovers, many of which kept the Pistons in the game in the fourth. It's kind of like saying that girl was super hot except when you went to kiss her goodnight her breath was a mix of crab and Drano.
Patty Mills had the best game off the bench with 9 points in 9 minutes.
Everybody else was terminally mediocre.
Stats of the Night
- Blazers 54.7%, Pistons 51.5% from the field.
- Blazers 29-30 from the line, a.k.a. "Saving Your Bacon".
- Blazers 25 rebounds on the night. Even with the high shooting percentages that's low.
- Blazers 25 assists on 35 made buckets.
Odd Notes and Links
Don't forget tomorrow is Valentine's Day. We want you to be able to read Blazersedge on the 15th and beyond instead of spending your days scrubbing floors and rubbing toes in abject apology!