The Portland Trail Blazers finished their four-game road trip with a 124-101 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Thursday night in the Motor City. The victory, Portland’s fourth straight, marked their first undefeated road trip of at least four games since 2013. The Blazers shook off a slow start to outscore the Pistons 73-49 in the second half after trailing by a point at the halftime break.
Damian Lillard finished the night with 33 points and 10 assists, leading a pivotal third quarter charge with 16 in the frame. Lillard was one of six Blazers to score in double-figures, joined by CJ McCollum (24), Robert Covington (16), Carmelo Anthony (16), Norman Powell (14) and Enes Kanter (10).
Detroit was led by Jerami Grant, who rode a hot first half to a 30-point night. The Pistons also got a strong effort from their bench, highlighted by the recently acquired Hamidou Diallo (19 points, seven rebounds) and Corey Joseph (11 points, nine assists).
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Here were a few key takeaways from Thursday’s game:
After a lackadaisical first half, the Blazers looked like a different team at the start of the third quarter. They utilized better ball movement, finishing with 27 assists on 42 made buckets, and were also much more locked-in on the defensive end of the floor. Lillard was at the forefront of the turnaround, scoring early and often en route to a 16-point quarter in which the Blazers outscored the Pistons 36-27.
Also key to the run was the concerted effort by Portland to slow down Grant, who had an easy (and efficient) 17 points in the first half. The final numbers don’t necessarily show it, but the Pistons’ leading scorer was much less effective after the break. Most of his second half scoring came in the closing minutes, with the game effectively already out of reach.
Inside vs. Outside
The Blazers were held to just 11 three-point attempts in the first half, knocking down seven of them. They were able to get off 19 attempts after halftime, hitting nine of them to finish the game 16-30 (53%) from beyond the arc. This proved to be the difference in the game, as the Pistons, who had were 6-16 from distance in the first half, finished just 9-27 (33%) when the final buzzer sounded, despite a number of wide open attempts.
Detroit dominated the paint with 54 points, accounting for more than half of their total offense. Grant and Mason Plumlee were especially lethal at the rim. However, with the Blazers dialed in from three, it wasn’t enough for Detroit to keep up. To add to the disparity, the Blazers also had nine more free-throw attempts, and were able to take advantage of it by going 24-26 from the stripe on the night.
Pushing the Pace
An interesting wrinkle to this game was Portland’s willingness to push the ball in transition, particularly via the newly acquired Powell. Stormin’ Norman lived up to his nickname, flying up the floor after grabbing the ball on multiple occasions. The effort was contagious, with other players looking up on hit-ahead passes to catch the Pistons off balance in the fast break. This is a welcome addition to Portland’s offense, which has been notoriously slow over the past few years.
For the second consecutive game, Portland utilized a three-guard starting lineup. However, coach Terry Stotts made a few subtle changes to the rotation as the team continues to adjust to new personnel. Most notably, Lillard, who routinely plays the entire first quarter, was subbed out at the halfway point of the first for Anfernee Simons. McCollum was the last starter to sub out, heading to the bench at the two-minute mark. However, this was reversed in the second half, as Lillard played the entire third quarter.
Also of note, Derrick Jones Jr. logged just 18 minutes in the game, his shortest amount of action in over two weeks, despite the fact the Nassir Little missed the game due to injury. Jusuf Nurkic was once again on restriction, but the leash appears to be getting a little longer. He surpassed the 20-minute mark for the first time since his return from injury, playing 21 total minutes, up from 19 the two previous games.
The Blazers return home to face Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday night. The game is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. PT at Moda Center.