Blazers Will Battle Centers, Try To Redeem Themselves Against Detroit

Tom Szczerbowski-US PRESSWIRE

The Blazers sense a winnable road game on the horizon but they'll have to topple two good young centers for the Detroit Pistons in order to do it.

After playing in one baaaaad city yesterday in Brooklyn the Trail Blazers travel to another baaaaad city, the home of Motown and Robocop, Detroit. Except in this case the baaaaad city also sports a baaaaad team, the Detroit Pistons. Coverage starts at 4:30 p.m. Pacific time. The game will be televised on CSNNW.

The Pistons pretty much reflect the state of greater Detroit right now. Downtown is still a happening place, growing and developing with plenty of young professionals strutting their stuff. Outside of that core middle district you take your chances with bust and decay being the norm. The Pistons field a promising pair of young centers in Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond. Now in his third year, Monroe is blossoming into stardom. He averages 17 points and 10 rebounds and even though his shooting percentages are low both for him and centers in general, he's a force to be reckoned with. So, too, young Drummond, 9th pick in this year's draft. He's raw but he's still shooting 65.5% from the field, killing it on the boards, blocking shots, and defending well. Between these two Detroit's big-man future looks rosy. Alternatively, Detroit's capacity to trade one or the other at a later date makes their prospects for talent acquisition bright.

That said...boy, do they need it.

Once upon a time the Pistons banked on two promising homemade players, Rodney Stuckey at point guard and Jason Maxiell at power forward. Stuckey was never an efficient player but he looked to be one of those guys who could bust 20 on you while dishing the ball and dishing out punishment with his powerful frame. So far this season the only punishment he's dishing out is on teammates and fans who have to watch him shoot. His field goal percentage lingers below 32% and his three-point percentage is below the Andre Miller line. He's been shifted from a starting role to reserve which has helped his game...marginally. Meanwhile Maxiell--a player I once coveted--has never fulfilled his promise offensively, defensively, or rebounding. He remains solidly mediocre.

The Pistons also field a couple of forwards who never developed as expected for other teams--Corey Maggette and Charlie Villanueva--plus the aging Tayshaun Prince, the ultimate role-player standing alone without a role to play. Power forward Jonas Jerebko rounds out the sad story. He's struggling to hit a shot and slumping hard in the rebounding department.

The best young hope for Detroit outside of the centers is probably point guard Brandon Knight. He can hit the three and dish the ball, though his lack of a close-range game and solid finishing moves hampers his offensive effectiveness. Rookie small forward (and Medford-ite) Kyle Singler is also worth watching as he's stroking the ball early. Defense is an issue for both players.

The Pistons have an interesting offense. They score plenty of points in the paint but their lack of marksmanship and fast break points conspire to keep their overall offense inefficient. They don't offensive rebound that well and they don't generate possessions. They're like a veteran-style offense with young guys and not much shooting. It makes some sense instinctively. When your brightest talents are centers the tendency is to walk it down and dump it in. But Monroe's not that dominant, nor is he that efficient. He shines like a supernova next to many of his teammates but Detroit's not going to win with him as the only productive player. Even in its current state, this lineup should have more spark than it shows.

The other kicker for Detroit is defense. They get back pretty well and cover the three with those mobile wings but they allow tons of points in the paint. They're poor defensive rebounders, compounding the problem. In most places "taking what the defense gives you" means a mid- or long-range shot. In the Motor City it means a drive past a guard or forward or a strong post move in the lane with the rebound and put-back if you miss. Somebody in the offense--usually Monroe--has to get Heat Miser-level hot in order to overcome the deficit their defense builds in.

The open question here is whether the Blazers can take advantage of what the Pistons offer. Portland isn't known for defense either. Portland also has trouble containing centers...even one, let alone two. Detroit guards the three well and that's Portland's go-to weapon. Tayshaun Prince could be a strong matchup for Nicolas Batum who did not play well against veteran forwards Andrei Kirilenko and Gerald Wallace in his last two games. Both teams are playing on the second night of back-to-backs with travel but the Pistons are deeper. This game should be easier for Portland than Brooklyn was but there are still plenty of holes for the Pistons to creep through on the way to a victory. The Blazers have the potential of a great night from LaMarcus Aldridge (providing he plays) and Damian Lillard plus tons of rebounding. That's a fine foundation for a win. Whether they can complete the project this time remains to be seen.

Detroit Bad Boys will hook you up with Pistons knowledge.

Your Jersey Contest Form for this game.

Portland Trail Blazer tickets for all games are available from Blazer's Edge sponsor TiqIQ.

--Dave (blazersub@gmail.com)

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