Portland Trail Blazers (30-34) vs. Detroit Pistons (15-49)
Less than 24 hours after beating the Orlando Magic, the Portland Trail Blazers get another golden opportunity for a win this evening. In the third matchup of a six-game road trip, Portland faces the rebuilding Detroit Pistons, losers of seven in a row and tied with the Houston Rockets for worst record in the NBA.
Can the Blazers make it two in a row? With the remaining games on this Eastern Conference trip against the Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers and New Orleans Pelicans, they need to grab wins while they can.
Blazers vs. Pistons — Monday, March 6 — 4:00 p.m. PT
How to Watch: Root Sports Plus, NBA League Pass
Blazers Injuries: Jusuf Nurkic (out), Justise Winslow (out), Ryan Arcidiacono (out), Ibou Badji (out), Anfernee Simons (out)
Pistons Injuries: Cade Cunningham (out), Jalen Duren (out), Bojan Bogdanovic (out), Isaiah Stewart (out), Killian Hayes (questionable), James Wiseman (questionable), Rodney McGruder (day-to-day)
SBN Affiliate: Detroit Bad Boys
Size Advantage? Yes, believe it or not, given Detroit’s laundry list of an injury report, the Blazers are the bigger team in tonight’s matchup. All three of Detroit’s centers — Jalen Duren (out), Isaiah Stewart (out) and James Wiseman (questionable) — are listed with injuries, making Marvin Bagley Jr. the only Piston above 6-foot-10 who’s certain to be available. If Wiseman can’t go, the Blazers will have an advantage — or at least a draw — in the size department for what must be the first time since starting center Jusuf Nurkic went down with an injury in early February. For once, the Blazers won’t be playing an uphill battle in the paint and surrendering easy points at the basket, at least they shouldn’t be. With Detroit’s lack of size, look for three things in tonight’s game: Gold at the rack, especially for Damian Lillard; A solid, efficient outing for Drew Eubanks; And Portland’s lengthy forwards to be more disruptive on defense and effective on offense without a high-caliber big roaming the paint.
Offensive Win. Portland and Detroit display some of the worst defenses in the league. The teams are 27th (117.1) and 28th (117.4) respectively in defensive rating. But on the other end, Portland is sixth-best in offensive rating (116.3) while Detroit stays near the bottom at 27th (110.0), a huge gap. Portland’s defense will get a boost tonight due to Detroit’s injuries, but it shouldn’t matter too much. The Blazers offense already has the firepower to play Detroit out of its own gym.
Clocking Out Early. The Portland Trail Blazers should make quick work of this game. Detroit is in the doldrums of a tank job, tied for worst record in the NBA and now with four starters out with injury. Meanwhile, the Blazers are fighting for their playoff lives and relatively healthy. If Portland can’t build a big enough cushion to give Lillard and the starters rest in the fourth quarter, it’ll be a moral loss even if the scoreboard results in a win. It’s the second night of a back-to-back and the Blazers have a difficult stretch coming up against playoff teams. Finding some extra rest before that gauntlet would be ideal.
What Others are Saying
Brady Fredericksen of Detroit Bad Boys writes how the Pistons’ injury issues led them to sign forward Eugene Omoruyi, a former standout at the University of Oregon, to a 10-day contract last week.
Dating back to his college days at Rutgers and Oregon, he was productive but never a great shooter until his final year with the Ducks when he hit 38% from deep on 3.9 attempts per game. That shooting is the key, and so far it hasn’t translated.
I’m not really sure how much we’ll see Omoruyi once the Pistons get healthy. Though they were playing very small with four-guard lineups this week against the Bulls, they won’t need to do that once they’ve got Isaiah Stewart and Jalen Duren back in the fold.
But there isn’t much depth at power forward right now outside Bojan Bogdanovic and Hamidou Diallo. If the shot falls, maybe Omoruyi can give them a stretchy-four option off the bench in spurts?
Keith Langlois at NBA.com writes how the forward-thinking Pistons’ stretch run this season will be important for experimentation, especially with their logjam in the front court.
The first order of business is sorting out the frontcourt with last month’s trade for James Wiseman giving them four big men 23 or younger. Can they play two at a time and fashion competent units on both ends of the floor? Can they do so freely among all possible combinations? Can one of them other than Isaiah Stewart – Wiseman, Marvin Bagley III or Jalen Duren – show enough to make a case to be next in line at power forward and all that it entails at both ends?
There’s a balancing act to navigate, though. The Pistons would love to test Wiseman’s versatility to see how his athleticism manifests itself on the perimeter, but they’re mindful of his limited exposure to date – missing all of last season due to injury and having his opportunities curtailed by Golden State’s sense of urgency to compete for titles – and don’t want to throw too much at him at once.