The Portland Trail Blazers defeated the Detroit Pistons 110-101 on Wednesday night after falling behind by as many as 18. The Blazers were led by Shaedon Sharpe’s 29 points, 26 of them coming in the second half, to close out the Pistons on the road. Jerami Grant added 24 and Deandre Ayton 16 points with 11 rebounds.
Sharpe was really the star of the game, bringing the Blazers back in the third quarter with 15 points when Detroit could have easily pulled away. Ultimately Portland’s defense proved to be too much for the Pistons down the stretch.
The only downside from tonight was Scoot Henderson exiting in the third quarter after diving for a loose ball. Henderson appeared to be okay, but stay tuned for more news. Henderson was putting together a solid performance leaving the game.
If you missed the game, you can find our quarter-by-quarter recap here. After you’ve read that, here are the details that defined the contest.
Jerami Grant the Scorer
Grant returned to play against one of his former teams tonight, and he was ready to put on a show. He has an unorthodox style of play, but he has perfected it. He can score the ball on all four levels of the court. He shoots the three ball effectively, can knock down the midrange jump shot, can throw defenders into spin cycles when in the post, and can knock down his free throws. Grant also attempted two dunk attempts tonight that would have blown the roof of the place had he connected.
Grant has been struggling from distance this year. Tonight he went 2-4, hitting timely shots to keep Detroit from pulling away. His mid range and post game were effective as well. His ability to be shifty in the lane applied a lot of pressure on defenders Isaiah Stewart, Marvin Bagley III, and James Wiseman. Drawing fouls on Detroit’s big men was key in the Blazers victory. Grant converted 8-10 from the free throw line, finishing with a +/- of +15.
The Scoot/DA Connection
The connection between point guard and center goes back to when James Naismith created the game of basketball. The synergy was on full display from the tip when Scoot Henderson found Deandre Ayton for an easy layup about two seconds into the game. Throughout the first quarter, we got to see a glimpse into the future of the Blazers’ pick and roll offense and it was good.
Scoot’s court vision combined with Ayton’s hands, length, and ability to finish at the rim will be a weapon for the Blazers. The pressure this single play will have on opposing defenses will set the table for the rest of the offense.
Ayton finished the game with an efficient 8-13 from the field for 16 points. Scoot turned in a 11 point, seven assist and three turnover game.
THE Shaedon Sharpe Game
This season has been highlighted by the play of Shaedon Sharpe. It’s fair to say tonight was his best performance: 29 points, 9-16 from the field, 3-6 from deep, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, a steal, and 2 blocks in 42 minutes of play. More importantly, Sharpe attempted 10 free throws, the reward for all his driving to the hoop and attacking the basket.
Sharpe was the best player on the floor tonight. His offensive skills and shot making were on full display in the third quarter. He scored a career-best 15 points in that quarter, bringing the Blazers back from an 18-point deficit. There was a stretch between the 4:21 mark and 1:42 mark where Sharpe went layup, three, dunk, three, and three. That’s a lot of offense in a short period of time.
Sharpe was simply spectacular tonight. He’s seized the opportunity to showcase his growth while Anfernee Simons is out. I know it’s early, but can you say “Most Improved Player”?
Turnovers and Transition Defense
The Pistons ran out to an early lead tonight. In the second quarter they exploited Portland’s weakest area: turnovers and transition defense. The Blazers struggled with 17 turnovers, more than half of them coming in the first half. Turnovers lead to easy baskets. The Pistons had the youth and athleticism to convert those into two, and sometimes three, points. (See all of Joe Harris’s made threes.)
No surprise this is a weak spot for the Blazers. Starting the youngest backcourt in the NBA will have its growing pains, but that doesn’t mean we can’t look for improvement.
The flip side for the Blazers is their set defense. At least tonight, the Blazers looked more comfortable when they had time to ready their defense and apply proper rotations.
A prime example of this took place at the 0:50 mark of the third quarter when Toumani Camara had a sweet block on Wiseman then ran the floor for an easy layup and foul.
Whatever Head Coach Chauncey Billups said to his team at halftime worked. The Blazers only gave up 42 points in the second half. Ayton, Sharpe, and Robert Williams were flying around the rim. They combined for six blocks and disrupted a dozen more shots in or near the paint. If the Blazers can get this kind of effort from their set defense this season, maybe the losses won’t pile up as quickly as some assume.
The Trail Blazers coming from 18 points down to win on the road is no small task. The reason they were even down that many points was the play of Cade Cunningham.
Cunningham had a lot of pressure to turn around the Pistons when he was drafted in 2021. Last season was not his best, but he seems determined to make this year his breakout.
Cunningham was efficient tonight, going 5-9 from deep, finishing with 30 points. He has a great feel for the ball and can explode to the rim when the opportunities are there, but his midrange game is his deadliest weapon.
Cunnigham was a problem for Portland most of the night, but down the stretch the Blazers did a great job of forcing him into some tough shots. He missed a couple easy ones in the fourth quarter, but who’s counting? Overall, it was fun to watch him play. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of season the Pistons put together this year with Cunningham leading the way.
Malcom Brogdon put together yet another solid game tonight, going 5-11 from the field for 14 points, 6 assists, and 6 rebounds with only 2 turnovers. He continues to be the closer for this young Blazers squad.
Robert Williams was super effective tonight. His three blocks and presence in the paint altered the course of many Detroit layup and dunk attempts.
Skylar Mays’ stats won’t blow you away, but after Henderson went down, he played in the most important eight minutes of the game tonight. Mays played under control and kept the ball moving when the play seemed to break down. He led the team during key minutes when the Blazers started to pull away. His basketball IQ seems high and brings some sneaky length to the PG position. I hope Mays gets more minutes moving forward.
The Blazers return to the Moda Center on Friday night to face the Memphis Grizzlies in their first in-season tournament qualifying game of the year. The contest begins at 7:00 PM, Pacific.