Less than 18 hours after demolishing the 76ers from long-range, the Portland Trail Blazers (21-4) continued their quest for dominance over the East as they rolled into The Palace of Auburn Hills to meet the Detroit Pistons (11-14) for the second of a back-to-back. The Blazers took care of the Pistons at home in early November but their towering frontcourt of Josh Smith, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond had given the Blazers fits in the paint. However the Pistons couldn’t match the outside scoring and lost 109-103. Could the sizzling shooting by Portland’s guards continue after nailing a franchise record 21 three-pointers a night before?
Up until the fourth quarter the shot that was so good yesterday wasn’t falling. The Pistons were forcing Portland to work for every single possession, choking the perimeter and the Blazers had to fight back down as many as 13 points. After arriving to their hotel as late as 3am last night, the Blazers battled heavy legs most of the night. Portland claws back with foul shots to force overtime and Damian Lillard with ice in his veins connects at the last second to seal the 111-109 victory. The Blazers are now 10-0 against the East and 2-0 on this current road-trip.
Portland started the game 5-6 from the field but we realized quickly the short time in between rest was catching up with them. As good as Portland is on outside shooting, Detroit makes their money on the inside and it was a close battle back and forth. The biggest the lead ever got for both sides was four, all while the Blazers were shooting about 68% and took a 29-22 lead after one quarter.
The Blazers built that lead to 11 but soon after Joel Freeland seemed to have twisted his back and had to head to the locker room. It would normally not be a big deal but Meyers Leonard had been issued a one-game suspension for his wrestling match last night, so it forced Portland to use Robin Lopez more or go small. The Blazers could not get anything going from downtown as they were 0-6 and Detroit fed on second chance points, eventually taking the lead. Portland would go on to miss nine straight shots. Josh Smith was having the time of his life and had a terrific half, bulldozing his way to a seven-point lead. Portland cuts the halftime lead to just one 51-50 after a coast-to-coast drive by Lillard.
The Pistons’ physical defense wouldn’t let up and after the Blazers started the third going 1-6, a three from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope gives Detroit their largest lead 71-62. Since the good shooting first quarter Portland had only made 11 shots since then and the game felt it was slipping away every time Drummond and Monroe slammed the ball home. The Pistons took an 11-point lead and have all the momentum going to the fourth up 84-73. Do the Blazers have any fight left in them?
A couple of rare three’s by Mo Williams momentarily stop the bleeding but the Pistons continue to grab offensive boards and box Lopez out so he has no chance of getting any stop. With the Blazers down 90-79, a Batum three to cut the lead to four and suddenly Portland is on a 10-2 run. The Pistons must have felt they had the W in the bag so they became a little too loose with the ball and throw it away, giving Portland life. Rodney Stuckey hits a three to keep distance but Lillard hit a free throw, missed the second, and the ball grazed Drummond’s hands out of bounds. The Blazers hit clutch free throws to tie the game at 99 to close a 26-13 run in the fourth and Detroit gave the ball to Stuckey to seal the deal. He goes to miss a floater over Lopez and leaves too much time on the clock for the Blazers one final look. Lillard ran into the paint for a whistle but the whistle never came. He steals the following inbounds play with 1.1 left and the fans at The Palace are treated to free Sunday basketball.
Portland goes up three on a transition basket from Lillard. Brandon Jennings connects on a tough step-back three to tie the game, which would be the last time Detroit had the lead back. The Blazers knowing it was tough to get anything from midrange went down low and got to the foul line on consecutive possessions, trading leads and flirting with an extra overtime session. Stuckey gets too much room from Wesley Matthews who took another step and hits a jumper, tying the game at 109 but again with too much clock to give Portland one more swing to win. Lillard wanted a go, so he drives insides, spins, looses the ball momentarily, fades away, lets go and banks in the game winning shot at the buzzer!
Who Was Hot
- When the shot wasn’t falling, all starters managed to finish with double-digit scoring: LaMarcus Aldridge had 27 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks on 11-25. The Pistons didn’t throw double teams at him till late and he gladly took home a few wide-open jumpers.
- Damian Lillard will frown at taking 21 shots and only making six, but the poor guy would continue to run inside and get smacked but rarely get the whistle called. He could’ve been decapitated and the game would still play on. He has 23 points, seven assists, three steals, goes 11-12 from the foul line and one game winning shot.
- Nicolas Batum was roughed up by Josh Smith for most of the day and bought his spin moves on multiple occasions. He did clamp down defensively late in the game and denied the Pistons any good looks in overtime: 18 points, five rebounds, five assists and two steals.
- Robin Lopez battled tooth and nail with Drummond and Monroe and came away with 12 points and 13 rebounds.
- Josh Smith turned back the clock and had a monster of a first-half, but didn’t get the touches as the game wore on and didn’t get anything in overtime after performing so well. He had a game-high 31 points, seven rebounds, and four assists on 13-17 makes.
- Assists: Portland 24 – Detroit 19
- Steals: Portland 9 – Detroit 5
- Portland is now 2-0 while wearing the Rip City alternative jerseys. Have to say it was pretty cool to see Detroit wear their navy Motor City alternatives. Word on Twitter was Lillard asked if there could be a possible black Rip City alternative…let the drooling commence.
Who was Cold
- The Blazers must’ve been caught off guard that someone was actually playing perimeter defense and throwing hands in their faces. The three-point shot was not there tonight and took the day off, Portland goes 7-26 but it was ugly too for Detroit as they went 3-15.
- Portland wasn’t going to win the rebounding battle anyway: Detroit 53 – Portland 47
- Points in the paint was not surprising either: 68 to 42 in favor of Motown.
Highlight of the night
It speaks for itself: the game-winning basket by Lillard.
If you missed this earlier, Lopez got into a friendly tussle with the Pistons’ mascot Hooper and the wrestling match is very entertaining to watch. The lesson here kids is don’t make Robin angry, or make fun of his Sideshow Bob hair.
Bravo to the Blazers to sticking to their guns and riding this out. They deserve the day off tomorrow for some much needed rest and will take the court Tuesday for a battle of the ROTYs: Kyrie Irving vs. Damian Lillard as Portland faces the Cleveland Cavaliers for the third-game of this road-trip.