Game 16 Preview: Portland Trail Blazers vs. Detroit Pistons

Game Time: 4:30 p.m. Pacific TV: CSNNW

Lately on back-to-back nights for the Blazers it's been "out of the frying pan and into the fire". With Toronto and Detroit the opponents in this pair of games it's more like "off of a very small hot plate and sixty-two feet away from a flickering match". Like the Raptors, the Pistons are nursing a horrible record and a boatload of recent losses. Unlike the Raptors, the Pistons can't claim injuries as a major--or even partial--cause of their woes. They're just bad.

Detroit's great hope is center Greg Monroe. He's 6'11" and 250 lbs so he's got some size to him. In his second year he's quietly become one of the better all-around offensive centers in the league. He scores 16 per game on 54.5% shooting, He's over 9 rebounds per game, 4 of those offensive. He even salts in 3 assists. His defense is passable, though he's neither a shot-blocker nor a volume defensive rebounder. If he's able to bump up his play on that end of the floor Detroit will have a legitimate and valuable star upon which to build.

And "build" is exactly what they need to do because the rest of this lineup is an eyesore. Ben Gordon and Rodney Stuckey normally start in the backcourt. Stuckey has been sore so rookie Brandon Knight has taken his place in the starting lineup for now. We'll see how long that lasts. (Stuckey didn't play at all versus Memphis so maybe the Blazers will avoid him.) Gordon is shooting well enough (42% overall, 44% from distance) but doesn't do much else outside of 15 ppg. Stuckey is shooting horribly from everywhere but the three-point arc (35% from distance himself, 34% overall) and also providing only modest help outside of his 11 per game point production. In particular both guards use a ton of possessions and produce few assists. Their defense is horrible. 2009 called. It wants its promising young stars back. Knight can score. But Knight's game suffers from the same illness as those of the starting guards: way too intermittent, too self-serving, not accompanied by defense.

Tayshaun Prince and Jonas Jerebko start at the forward positions. Prince is old, showing signs of decline everywhere in his game outside of shooting deep, and Jerebko is productive but young...an offensive rebounder who will occasionally put up a long shot as well.

Detroit's bench has some name power in Jason Maxiell, Ben Wallace, Austin Daye, and Brandon Knight. If nothing else they've got some big bodies there. Sadly none of these big men are producing this season, leaving the bench rather limp in everything but name.

Detroit's main problem is a lack of scoring. And that's an understatement. It's one thing to have not broken 100, which the Piston's haven't. but these guys have only broken 90 four times all year. They're 2-2 in those games. Like the Raptors last night they're inefficient and generate few easy points in the lane, off the break, or at the foul line. They shoot a decent percentage from the three-point arc but seldom take them. Their calling card on offense, if they have one, is offensive rebounding. But that's mostly a "strength" in the sense of not being as bad as everything else they do. The Pistons also have the odd distinction of generating the fewest possessions in the league yet turning over the ball more than anyone on a per-possession basis. Deliberate and clumsy aren't supposed to go together.

Detroit's defense is also inefficient. They allow plenty of points in the paint and fast break points considering their style. Opponents average 47% shooting against them. They're last in the league in blocked shots, low in turnovers forced, and they don't rebound well at the defensive end.

In short, despite carrying players with some explosive potential, the Pistons are big, fat duds right now. This is another game where talent and experience alone should carry the Blazers to an easy win. The Blazers shouldn't have to double-team many guys. If they just avoid the season-high or career-game from 2-3 of these guys (and it's hard to imagine that happening to any of them, let alone multiple players) they should find a fine finish to a rough road trip.

Hear the Detroit story at Detroit Bad Boys but be forewarned: "bad" has a dual meaning for the Pistons this year.

Enter your Jersey Contest form here.

--Dave (blazersub@gmail.com)

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