Four Blazers scored in double figures. Shaedon Sharpe scored 10 or more points for the fourteenth time in his young 35-game career, and was respectable competition for his rookie contemporary in Jaden Ivey.
Grant stole the show early and was a pillar of consistency from the opening whistle up until the game got out of reach. Damian Lillard started off very slow, but in superstar fashion, found a way to pour on 19 points in two quarters worth of play.
The Pistons looked like the young team they are, and while a valiant effort from Bojan Bogdanovic and Hamidou Diallo established an early lead, the well-oiled Blazers machine took over and did not look back. The game was effectively over long before the final whistle, and Portland picked up their second win in three games after a tough loss to the shorthanded Golden State Warriors on Friday night.
Highway to the Rim
Both the Blazers and the Pistons were successful in driving to the basket in the first half. Bojan Bogdanovic made a living slashing baseline, finishing with the right and left aggressively and purposefully. He was their entire offense for the first 12 minutes of play. Detroit ended the half with 41 of their 52 points coming in the paint or at the line. Despite traffic, the Pistons made sure to keep the onus on being aggressive, and it generated most of their offense. Unfortunately for them, the long ball was not falling, as they went 30 percent from deep and were not aided by a paltry 40.4% from the floor. Josh Hart put the pressure on Jalen Duren and Isaiah Stewart in transition and the half court, fearing no man in his quest to the rack. Portland had a multitudinal attack, but it was their hustle in transition that helped catalyze their comeback, as they scored 15 of their 61 points on the break.
Lemonade Out of Lemons
Portland ended the first half on a 15-0 run behind heroics from Grant and Drew Eubanks. Defense led to offense, the ball was moving, and both players made great decisions with the rock. Lillard went scoreless for the first 17 minutes of the ball game, but Rip City found a way to make as much lemonade out of the lemons they had. Blazers head coach Chauncey Billups went 11 deep, finding contributions from a host of players.
Sharpe caught an unreal lob from Gary Payton II in the first half. His head was well above the rim, and he threw the tomahawk dunk down with authority. It might just be his best highlight of his young career to date.
Grant from Deep
Grant is not just having a good standalone season from beyond the arc. He has been one of the best shooters in the NBA, with consistent production through and through. His 44% clip from distance is No. 9 in the league, and it showed tonight. Whether he was pulling up, or catching and shooting — whether he had his fingertips aligned on the lining of the ball or barely had a chance to get himself set — Grant was all money in from the 3-point line, and picked up where he left off from the first half in convincing fashion.
If you’re a Pistons fan that wandered onto the wrong SB Nation site, or a Blazers fan who appreciates talent from around the league, you may have high expectations for one Jaden Ivey. The rookie talent exhibited moments that made you go, “He can be that guy.” On one play he went 80-plus feet and blew by several defenders, even leaving Lillard in the dust, before unfortunately smoking the layup. His tangibles — speed, strength, footwork — are all there. But he showed his rookie status. With time, if and when polish kicks in, Ivey should be a problem in the league. To the joy of the Blazers, they were able to contain him well, despite him scoring in double figures. His -24 plus/minus was a hindrance to his team hanging on to their lead or chipping into that which they lost, but he was moderately effective in drawing contact and getting to the line.
In under five minutes, from the end of the third quarter into the fourth, Anfernee Simons had 11 points. They were a crafty 11 points too. Simons continued a season-long string of owning the third quarter and coming up big in the latter stages of the game.
There were no eye-popping coaching moves from either side tonight. Portland fancied dribble handoffs on the wings, as well as setting screens in the middle of the floor and having guards like Simons and Hart curl toward the basket, receiving passes from the ball handler on the strong side wing. Detroit played the passing lanes fairly well, but this was one of the “most-used plays” types of the night for Rip City.
On the other end, Detroit fell in love with the post, as their two-center lineup dwarfed the Blazers’ front court. It seems that almost everyone in their starting lineup found themselves with their back to the basket at one point or another in the game, and made the inside their priority.
Portland did not use their zone all night. They had one play where Simons was camping down low as the double man, but he in turn lost his man on the play, scrambling, which freed up the Bogdanovic for his easiest bucket of the night, a 26-footer.
Inside the Numbers
Detroit’s six three-pointers made ties for their worst output from range all season. Surprisingly enough, they’ve shot lower than their 41.5 percent clip from the floor eight times this year. Portland owned them in moving the ball, winning the assist battle 29-16, and doubled them up in steals, 16-8 — a season high for the Blazers. Portland’s 57.1% field goal percentage was their third best of the 2022-23 campaign. This was also the 15th time they registered a three-point percentage of 40 or better.
The Trail Blazers have a date with the Minnesota Timberwolves on the road this Wednesday, Jan. 4, at 5:00 p.m. PT. Minnesota is 4-6 in their last 10 games and are 10-9 at home. Portland will look to deliver the Wolves another loss at the target center, and improve to 20-17 on the season. The Blazers are currently only two games back from the No. 4 seed Dallas Mavericks.