The moment Detroit Pistons forward Blake Griffin was scratched from the Pistons-Trail Blazers game tonight, a once-hot matchup carried all the panache of The Phantom Menace. Sure enough, the teams’ combined midichlorian count was untraceable, their lightsabers running on battery-saver mode throughout the contest. When the shouting (ok, barely-discernible mumbling) was all done, Detroit defeated Portland 99-90.
The Pistons celebrated their 1989 and 1990 NBA Championship teams tonight. Portland got the last laugh as they conspired with the home team throughout to make anyone who purchased a ticket really, really sorry. The Blazers started the game shooting 4-15, the Pistons 0-13. Portland occasionally scored inside in between turnovers. The Pistons kept looking to pass to a superstar who wasn’t there. The Blazers led after the first quarter, 14-11.
Portland made their first three-pointer of the game early in the second quarter. That took the lid off the bucket and the Blazers went on a comparative flurry, building a HUGE 12-point lead (considering the score). But the Pistons crept back into it with paint scoring as the half came to a close. Portland still led at intermission, 36-31. It was a season low for both teams. Enes Kanter had 14 points, the only thing resembling a bright point for the Blazers.
Portland opened the second half with a litany of missed shots, turnovers, and general garbage. (How do you commit a 24-second clock violation when you’re shooting 25%? What are you waiting for, clearance-priced bricks?) A spate of bad defense allowed both teams to pump the score with dunks mid-period. Detroit’s interior scoring kept up, and they added a couple jumpers as the period progressed. Portland still could not hit beyond a one-foot radius from the rim. Detroit took a 66-59 lead into the final quarter.
Normally a seven-point deficit would be well within Portland’s range...a couple of threes, a trip to the foul line, boom! 30 seconds of work. Tonight the Blazers were scoring at the rate of seven points a millennium, which made the comeback more problematic. Detroit kept going deep in the lane; the Blazers couldn’t defend them. Lack of opponent misses took away Portland’s customary advantage on the boards. The only thing the Blazers did prolifically (besides miss jumpers) was commit turnovers. As Detroit’s lead exceeded double-digits, Damian Lillard tried to take over. He did damage, scoring 11 in the period, but it wasn’t near enough. No threes, no interior “D”, and not quite enough Lillard left Portland desperately short in one of the worst games of the season.
The loss drops the Blazers to 48-28, leaving them fourth in the Western Conference, half a game behind the 49-28 Houston Rockets, who beat the Sacramento Kings today behind a 50-point triple-double from James Harden.
The Blazers conclude their road trip in Minnesota, facing the Timberwolves at 5:00, Pacific on Monday night.
Stay tuned as Steve Dewald brings you the extended recap of this contest.