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Heading West: The Detroit Pistons Visit The Portland Trail Blazers

Game Tips at 10:00 P.M. EST

Detroit Pistons: 2 - 5 (0 - 3 Away)

Portland Trail Blazers: 5 - 3 (2 - 1 Home)

Oppo Research:

The Portland Trail Blazers are off to a 5 - 3 record having beaten teams they should have beaten and lost to teams they should have lost to. Wins over Toronto, New York, Phoenix and LAC aren't much to write home about, given that they've had their asses handed to them by the Lakers and the Bulls. On the season, Portland is beating its opponents by an average of 2.3 points, which of course makes them immediate favorites to beat this Pistons team.

But while Portland may provide the greatest challenge to Detroit in this four game road trip, they could very well steal a win and continue building a streak to right the wrongs they started off with. With that, how might Detroit defeat the Trail Blazers on their court for the first time in five games? The same way they defeated Golden State.

So far this season, Golden State is superior to the Blazers in both record and roster, having more offensive firepower and a statistically superior defense. Portland's bench is about as shallow as Golden State's, if not worse, leaving little to contend with beyond the Blazer's semi-star-studded starting lineup. So you approach this team with little difference than you approached the Warriors, but hopefully you don't give up any leads tonight.

Portland is not shooting well, they play at a slower pace than Detroit, they have holes defensively and are as shallow as it gets on the bench. What are the keys to beating this team?

Kevin's Oppo Research:

The Blazers are biding time, hoping to stay in playoff contention until Greg Oden becomes healthy enough to help them make a championship push. Recent signing Sean Marks is helping to act as a stop gap, so that Marcus Camby doesn't get exhausted.

Also exhausted is Brandon Roy, who is clocking 39 mpg along with LaMarcus Aldridge. Coach Nate McMillan has pledged to monitor Roy's minutes, but whose going to take them on? Suffices to say, depth is an issue with this Blazers team.

Aside from being ravaged by injuries (Joel Przybilla is out, and Rudy Fernandez is having back issues), this looks more or less like last year's Blazers team. There is enough talent to stay competitive, and certainly to beat teams like Detroit at home, but it seems like Portland has never developed into the contender it could be.

The Blazers are not a great defensive team, and their rebounding has suffered. This will give the Pistons a shot to be competitive if they can stay hot from beyond the arc (they are currently shooting 40% as a team).

Keys to the Game:

Move the Ball, Pick Up the Pace: Even moreso than Detroit, Portland sticks to a half-court game and plays at a slow pace. If the Pistons do the same, they won't be able to compete with the Blazers' talent. Pick up the pace and move the ball the way you have been lately, and you can find yourself with win number three tonight.

Attack the Bigs, Force Fouls, Exploit the Bench: Marcus Camby is this team's defensive anchor. He's also 36 years old. Since he's not the shot blocker he once was, he's resorted to committing the most fouls per minute than he has in seven years. Push him into foul trouble-- and the house of defensive cards crumbles.

Perimeter Defense, Watch the Forwards: Keep things tight on the perimeter to prevent drives from Roy and Miller. Those two are streak machines, so don't let them get going. While LaMarcus Aldridge is the team's primary frontcourt threat on offense, don't sleep on Armon Johnson either. Our defense at the 4 is going to be terribly important tonight.

Kevin's Keys to the Game:

Get something from the lanky forwards: Austin Daye and Tayshaun Prince are combining to give the Pistons 57 mpg of really awful basketball. If both played to preseason expectations, the Pistons would be 5-2 right now.

Keep Roy on the perimeter: I don't care if he plays 39 minutes or 32, the Pistons cannot afford to let Brandon Roy do what Derrick Rose did. Roy is a poor jump shooter, and is struggling. A couple of successful drives will inspire confidence.

Bring on Sean Marks: The Blazers are very light in the front court, and if the Pistons can keep Marcus Camby in foul trouble, that will allow them to win on the boards.

Question of the Game:

After tonight, Detroit faces the Clippers, the Kings and re-visits the Warriors. A win tonight guarantees a belly full of steam going into some unfriendly arenas. Can the Pistons pull off number three tonight?

Kevin's Question of the Game:

Can Stuckey keep it up? He is playing the best ball of his career thus far, putting up the same numbers as last year while using fewer possessions. Outside of Stuckey and Ben Gordon, this team has been a hot mess.

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