The Pistons are far from looking competitive. They were without their most productive player in Jerami Grant, so anything less would have been a massive disappointment.
Portland was led by a He-Man-like effort from Enes Kanter, who brutishly hauled in a franchise record 30 rebounds to go along with 24 points, 2 assists and 2 blocks. The Wilt Chamberlain-esque performance was buoyed by 53 combined points from Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, who were able to rest for the entire fourth quarter.
The Blazers looked apprehensive early, perhaps taking a bit to adjust to not playing against an elite defense for the first time in four days. Portland meandered about in second gear for about the first six minutes, struggling to convert on shots, bailed out by the maniacal offensive rebounding of Kanter (who was filling in for the load-managed Jusuf Nurkic). The Pistons and Mason Plumee returned the favor, matching Portland with every errant pass and near-make, but doing enough to keep the pressure on. Some hot outside shooting from Lillard and McColllum in the final minutes swung the momentum in the Blazers’ favor, giving them a 33-23 lead at the end of one.
Portland looked to continue their run behind McCollum and Carmelo Anthony, who quickly pushed the advantage to 16 early in the second period. But Frank Jackson and the Detroit bench refused to let the Blazers off easy. With Portland’s second unit lacking in size, the Pistons went straight into the teeth of the Blazer defense, racking up points in the paint to pull back within three. Lillard returned and restored order, mostly by pushing the pace in transition. On a number of occasions, he was able to find Norman Powell and Nassir Little wide open on the break, dropping in feathery passes like a quarterback leading his receiver towards the end zone. Portland took a nine-point lead into the locker room at 59-50.
Tired of playing around, the Blazers came out of the break with purpose. McCollum led the charge early, peppering Detroit with an array of step-backs and floaters that said, “If you’re gonna let this happen, you don’t have a chance.” Still, a three-point mini-Renaissance from Josh Jackson kept Portland from running away with the game, or at least delayed it until the Blazers hit a defensive stride midway through the quarter. Portland continued to feed Kanter in the post, and combined with a few timely jumpers from Lillard, they were able to close out strong. They took a commanding 95-76 lead heading into the final frame.
Some of Portland’s starters had to make an appearance, but the fourth quarter was mostly garbage time with the Pistons not doing much to threaten a comeback. The focus was almost entirely on Kanter, who received some helpful shot selection from his teammates (and the Pistons for that matter) to achieve his feat.
Wow. Kanter’s ridiculous 30 boards is the most by any player this season, and the most by a Blazer since Sidney Wicks had 28 back in 1975. Detroit couldn’t keep him away from the ball all night. The Pistons even went away from playing a center as the game went on, clearing the path for Enes to got hog wild.
Stay tuned for analysis from Dave Deckard in the extended recap!
The Blazers are back in action tomorrow, when they will host the Miami Heat at 7 p.m. Pacific.