The Portland Trail Blazers got off the schneid with a satisfying 99-91 victory over the Toronto Raptors on Monday night. It wasn’t a work of art by any means, but 23 rebounds from Deandre Ayton and 22 points from Jerami Grant along with 21 from Malcolm Brogdon were enough to secure the victory. Now the Blazers have a chance to make this a winning road trip, something that seemed highly improbable just a few days ago.
The Detroit Pistons are 2-2 to start the season, and that’s enough to put a bit of a spring in their steps. Last season it took them 11 games to get to 3 wins; this season they have a chance to do it in 5. Results aside, the eye test clearly shows that this team is substantially improved, and it looks like on their day could provide a challenge to most teams in the NBA.
Portland Trail Blazers vs. Detroit Pistons - Wednesday, November 1 - 4:00 p.m. PT
How to watch on TV: Root Sports, NBA League Pass
Trail Blazers injuries: Ish Wainright (out), Anfernee Simons (out)
Pistons injuries: Bojan Bogdanovich (out), Monte Morris (out), Isaiah Livers (out), Jalen Duren (questionable)
SBN Affiliate: Detroit Bad Boys
- Jalen Duren. Duren is off to a fast start in his sophomore season. 15.5 points and 13.2 rebounds per game is a tremendous improvement over his 9.1 points and 8.9 boards he averaged last season. He’s forming a potent partnership with Cade Cunningham, and the pair are going to keep Deandre Ayton busy defending the paint. Between Duren and Ayton, if things go to form expect more points from Duren but more rebounds for Ayton. The actual differentials though might well be the key to the game.
- Turnovers and fouls. If it’s felt like the Blazers have turned over the ball a lot and fouled too much, you’d be correct. Portland has had 16.5 turnovers per game and has committed 22.3 fouls per game, good for 25th and 24th in the NBA. The good news is the Detroit is worse at 18.8 turnovers and 23.8 fouls, earning them the respective 29th and 30th spots in the League. Don’t expect Portland to suddenly hold on to the ball or defend without fouling, but they should be better than Detroit in these two areas and that should earn them an advantage.
- Shooting from deep. The Blazers are the second worst team from behind the arc in the NBA, shooting a dismal 28.5%. A lot of focus has been on Scoot Henderson’s early troubles, and rightly so: he’s shooting an unbelievable 5.6% from three. He’s not the only one struggling, with Jerami Grant at 19% so far in the young season. Detroit doesn’t take a ton of threes but they are quite efficient when they do pull the trigger, converting on 40.7%, good for fourth in the NBA. This is an area the could burn the Blazers, especially if they find themselves playing catch-up in this game.
What Others Are Saying
Damon Allred of Detroit Bad Boys writes about how some of their young talent have started out the season, especially Cade Cunningham and Jalen Duren.
The two growing their rapport together will be especially vital for this core together because of how a reliable go-to halfcourt set like pick-and-roll opens up so much for teammates. It helps that they spent time this summer on the Team USA Select Team helping the World Cup squad prepare.
Fans weren’t impressed when the Pistons traded for Joe Harris and Monte Morris. Morris hasn’t played due to injuries, but Aaron Kellerstrass of Piston Powered sees the deal for Harris as a trainwreck.
We weren’t expecting a ton out of Joe Harris, but he has looked washed, averaging under two points per game so far and shooting just 20 percent from 3-point range. Again, it’s not like we expected Harris to score 20 a game, but I at least thought we’d see some short stretches where he got hot and gave the team a boost off the bench, which has not happened.
When the Pistons lost their first game of the season, it wasn’t same old, same old according to James L. Edwards III of The Athletic (subscription required).
But despite the result, it felt like the beginning of what fans have been waiting for: Seeing a rebuilding team that is young but not inept. Too often in the past few seasons, Detroit wore both hats. And based on some of those results, it at times felt as if the team did so proudly. On Wednesday, though, the Pistons looked capable. They shared the floor with the hottest team in the NBA from April to June and belonged.