Portland Trail Blazers (24-34) at Detroit Pistons (28-31)
Feb. 28, 2017, 4:30 PST
Watch: CSN NW; Listen: Rip City Radio 620 AM
Blazers injuries: Jusuf Nurkic (day-to-day), Evan Turner (out), Festus Ezeli (out)
Pistons injuries: Beno Udrih (day-to-day)
SBN Affiliate: Detroit Bad Boys
Winners in only two of their last eight, Portland is looking to capture a victory against Detroit before returning home to the Moda Center. With a win, the Trail Blazers can salvage a .500 record on their current four-game road trip, which is no small feat given the struggles they’ve endured over the course of the season.
In light of a trade deadline that featured more talk than action, the Pistons are playing solid basketball in the month of February. After going 7-4 this month, Detroit has climbed back into the playoff-picture, currently good enough for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.
Leading the way for coach Stan Van Gundy’s Pistons is a guard tandem that appears to be heading in different directions. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has raised his scoring efficiency across the board, which has him headed towards a massive pay increase this summer. Caldwell-Pope’s backcourt partner, Reggie Jackson, has seen his production simultaneously move in the opposite direction.
Even with his struggles this season, Jackson torched the Blazers in his visit to Portland earlier this year. The former Boston College guard racked up 31 points in Detroit’s thrilling double-overtime victory on Jan. 8.
Jackson is at his best when operating inside the pick-and-roll with Andre Drummond. Portland’s acquisition of the towering Jusuf Nurkic should stymie some of that duo’s effectiveness. Moving back towards the paint off of screens favors the Blazers’ new center, which should limit the Pistons’ opportunities near the basket.
Nurkic has already tussled with Drummond on two occasions this season, and he was successful when given adequate playing time. He was on the court for 24 minutes in the first meeting, recording a solid double-double in the process. In the second meeting, Nurkic saw limited action, nabbing only two rebounds.
Noah Vonleh and Al-Farouq Aminu will provide additional help for Nurkic in the post. Aminu is still Portland’s best defender, and he has helped on offense since surrendering his spot in the starting rotation. After struggling with his shot for most of the season, the former Wake Forest forward is shooting 45.5 percent from beyond the arc in the month of February.
If Portland’s turnover issues persist in this contest, solid shooting and a new defensive scheme won’t be enough to achieve victory. The Blazers have struggled with maintaining possession after parting ways with Mason Plumlee, and they will be facing a Pistons team that is very judicious with the ball. Detroit commits the fourth-fewest turnovers per game in the league, which will make wasted opportunities even more damaging for Portland.
Regardless of the outcome of tonight’s game, this matchup will feature two of the heftiest centers in the NBA. Watching Nurkic go to work against Drummond is reason enough to tune-in for this one.