The Portland Trail Blazers, like the Detroit Pistons, were not expected to do much this season by national media, with many predicting them to win less than 30 games all season. While that still may end up eventuating, at this moment in time they are playing great basketball, going into the matchup with a 4-2 record with wins against seemingly strong teams like Memphis and Utah. They are powered by their fun, high-scoring back court, C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard, who have both shouldered a massive load since key offseason departures.
Where: Moda Center, Portland, OR
When: Sunday 8th November, 2015, 9PM ET
Exceptionally Detailed Analysis
After a speed bump in the 82-0 campaign where Indiana crushed the dreams of children everywhere, 81-1 is off to a resoundingly successful start. Detroit is coming off of a tough win in Phoenix on Friday, 100-92. There were questions as to how a young team like the Pistons would handle their first loss of the season, especially as the culture of success and winning is being instilled, but the team bounced back well with a grind-it-out defensive victory.
KCP was again in the spotlight as he put in a tremendous display on both sides of the ball, finishing with 18 points on very efficient 8-of-10 shooting, while limiting Brandon Knight to 8-of-19 shooting on his way to 22 points. In fact, both Phoenix guards had an inefficient night, as Eric Bledsoe only converted on 9-23 looks on his way to 22 as well.
However, the real spotlight was on Marcus Morris and how he'd handle his return to Phoenix. Well, after a slow start he really exploded and performed admirably. He credits the coaching staff for sticking with him after the rough start, and he finished with 20 points on 7-of-14 shooting after starting 1-of-6, and chipping in with six rebounds and a couple of steals as well. He outplayed brother Markieff, who had 18 points but needed 21 shots to get there.
Free-throw shooting is also a major issue for this team, namely Andre Drummond. After shooting a promising 58 percent through the first four games, his percentage plummeted with an abysmal 2-of-13 showing. It seems that when Dre is focused, he is actually shooting the ball with purpose and touch, rather than casting it up there with a fling when frustrated. Still, his early season showing has proven that he can be a capable shooter from the line compared to years past, and hopefully the 2-of-13 nights are more of an aberration in the future.
Portland comes into this matchup on the back of a 19-point victory over a porous-looking Memphis unit. As usual, their starting backcourt provided most of the flair and sizzle, with Lillard scoring 27 points and McCollum chipping in 20. Al-Farouq Aminu is also a danger as he added his second double-double of the season, with 11 and 10 boards.
Portland is a dangerous unit, but there seems to be a general consensus around the league that they rely too heavily on their backcourt, and the scoring punch it provides. Also, their backcourt isn't the most defensive minded, so putting McCollum and Lillard in situations like pick-and-rolls and coming off screens may not only generate good looks, but make them expend energy they'd rather use on the offensive end. Also, as both Lillard and McCollum are 6-foot-3, this is perhaps one game where you can get away with Reggie Jackson defending off the ball on C.J. McCollum, leaving a hungry KCP to try and neutralise Lillard as best he can.
Reggie Jackson vs. Damian Lillard
Whether Jackson ends up actually defending Lillard is a different story, but both men are undoubtedly the focal points of their offenses. Lillard has a high usage rate and is developing into a very good point guard with passing ability, but maintains his deadly ability to hit the 3. In fact, as Leigh Ellis from The Starters pointed out, both Lillard and Steph Curry are on pace to hit more than 400 threes this season. Therefore, you cannot afford to go under the screen with Lillard, but rather turn him into a driver and funnel him towards Andre Drummond.
Last Time We Met
March 13, 2015 in Portland, Blazers win 118-99
The Pistons dropped their ninth game in a row with this loss, dropping to 23-42 on the season. Greg Monroe had 19 points and Andre Drummond had 16 and 17. Jodie Meeks (14), KCP (12), Caron Butler (11) and Reggie Jackson (11 and 10 assists) also had notable outings, but they were unable to stop the Blazers behind Lillard's 28 and 9 assists.
Pistons 96-93 Blazers
Pistons: Jackson, Caldwell-Pope, Morris, Ilyasova, Drummond
Blazers: Lillard, McCollum, Aminu, Leonard, Ma. Plumlee
Pistons: Jennings (Achilles), Meeks (foot)
Blazers: Henderson (hip), Alexander (knee)
Would you put KCP on Lillard defensively for the whole game?