To say the Pistons and Trail Blazers are heading in opposite directions would be an understatement. The Pistons have lost 12 of their last 15 games, while the Trail Blazers are on an 11 game winning streak. They have not lost a game since the All Star Break, and find themselves third in the always tough Western Conference.
It is tough to see any way the Pistons win this game, but we did just witness a 16-seed beat a 1-seed in the NCAA Tournament last night, so anything is possible.
Where: Moda Center in Portland, OR
When: 10:00 p.m. EST
Watch: Fox Sports Detroit or NBA League Pass
Damian Lillard has elevated himself to a darkhorse MVP candidate with his play since the All Star Break. He has averaged 30.5 points and 6.5 assists while shooting 41 percent from beyond the arc. He has also hit plenty of clutch shots to keep the Trail Blazers winning streak going.
I would say finding a way to stop Damian Lillard is a key to winning this game, but the chances of stopping Damian Lillard are slim-to-none. He is simply playing too well and the Pistons have nobody at either guard spot who can chase him around all game and try to stop him.
Even if you find a way to slow down Damian Lillard, you also have to deal with CJ McCollum, who is almost as lethal offensively as Damian Lillard. McCollum has averaged 22 points, 3.3 assists, and is shooting 42 percent from three during the winning streak. This is almost identical to his season averages of 21.8 points, 3.2 assists and 42 percent three-point shooting.
Beyond these two, the Trail Blazers do not have a ton of players that will give the Pistons problems. Jusuf Nurkic is a solid post big man, but he cannot take over a game like Lillard or McCollum can. However, Nurkic is the exact kind of opposing center that seems to give Andre Drummond trouble. Hopefully he comes ready to play and is able to shut him down. Andre Drummond has had some pretty memorable games against the Trail Blazers in Portland in the past, so hopefully he can continue that trend.
The Blazers have some solid wing defenders in Al Farouq Aminu, and Maurice Harkless, but neither player are much of a threat offensively (which is exactly why they will go off against the Pistons). They could also have some problems dealing with Blake Griffin in the post due to Blake Griffin having a size advantage over them. This is something the Pistons should be looking to exploit.
The bottom line for any game against the Blazers is pretty simple, shut down one of McCollum or Lillard and you have a shot at winning. However, that is easier said than done.
Pistons: Ish Smith, Reggie Bullock, James Ennis, Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond
Blazers: Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Moe Harkless, Al Farouq Aminu, Jusuf Nurkic
Trail Blazers 118, Pistons 101
With how awful the Pistons are at defending the three-point line, Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum are going to put on a shooting clinic. I see no reason to believe the Pistons can shut down the hottest team in the league based on the way they have played on this Western road trip so far (and the last 15 games).
Question of the Day
Should the Pistons try Dwight Buycks as the starting point guard until Reggie Jackson is able to come back?