Last season, the Pistons and Trail Blazers broke through as young playoff teams. This season, both teams were supposed to build off of that postseason berth and rise up their respective conferences. Instead, both teams have underachieved so far, and find themselves on the outside looking in of the playoff race.
Where: Moda Center in Portland, OR
When: Sunday, Jan. 8 at 9:00 p.m EST
Watch: Fox Sports Detroit
Both teams come into this game plagued by the same issue, defense. While the Pistons got off to a great start defensively and are still, statistically, a top-10 defense, they have become sieve-like over the last few weeks.
The Trail Blazers have struggled with defense all year and are last in the league in defensive efficiency.
What saves the Trail Blazers from being terrible is their top-10 offense, led by their two-headed monster backcourt, Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. The duo averages 50.1 points per game combined, and will be a handful offensively for Reggie Jackson and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. However, neither Damian nor C.J. are great defenders either. Reggie and KCP should give them all they can handle on the offensive end.
The Portland Trail Blazers have a pretty weak center rotation, so the Pistons will have to take advantage of it. They start Mason Plumlee at center, who is a pretty solid player who should have difficulty containing an engaged Andre Drummond. Without Festus Ezili due to injury, there really isn’t much else for them to choose from at center. Ed Davis will probably get some backup center minutes, and he should have the same issues containing Andre Drummond that Plumlee will, if Andre is active.
As our own Steve Hinson has said, Tobias Harris has been fantastic since moving to the bench. However, Portland sports some pretty solid defenders at small forward on their roster. Both Al-Farouq Aminu and Maurice Harkless could give Harris some trouble. I expect the Trail Blazers to use either player to try and contain Tobias. With how hot he’s been shooting, it may not matter what they do.
When the Pistons played in Portland last year, it was arguably the most exciting game of the season. The Pistons closed a 13-point fourth quarter deficit and ended up winning 120-103. The Pistons outscored the Blazers 41-11 in the quarter and Reggie Jackson scored 26 points in the fourth quarter.
I don’t expect this game to be that exciting, but it should be a pretty good game between equally disappointing teams.
Pistons: Reggie Jackson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Marcus Morris, Jon Leuer, Andre Drummond
Injuries: Reggie Bullock (may play), Aron Baynes (may play)
Trail Blazers: Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Maurice Harkless, Al-Farouq Aminu, Mason Plumlee
Injuries: Festus Ezili
Pistons 108, Blazers 100
This game is key for the Pistons on this 5-game road trip. Playing out west is always tough, and Portland, despite being six games under .500, is one of three western playoff teams the Pistons will play on this trip. This is one of the winnable games, and the Pistons need to take it and start the road trip off right.
Do you expect another crazy finish like the last time these two teams met in Portland?