While all the talk in the Western Conference has centered on the struggling Los Angeles Lakers, the Portland Trail Blazers have sneakily kept on doing what they do best — stacked up wins. Portland has won 10 of 14 games, and currently sit just a game and a half back from the fourth seed in the West.
Detroit, on the other hand, has continued to shake up its lineups as they look for some semblance of consistency out of their young core. They’ve lost four of their last five games, but should enter tonight’s contest with some added confidence as they are coming off a dominant performance against the Toronto Raptors on Monday night.
When: 7:00 p.m. EST
Where: Little Caesars Arena, Detroit MI
Watch: Bally Sports Detroit, NBA League Pass
Odds: Detroit +7
The Blazers have been able to remain competitive despite early season injuries to CJ McCollum, who missed 25 games, and Jusuf Nurkic, who was sidelined for over two months (32 games) with a broken wrist. McCollum was posting career-best averages in points (26.7) and assists (5) prior to his injury, and is currently in the “shaking off the dust” stage of his return. Nurkic has played in just two games since coming back as the Trailblazers ease him into the line-up.
How have the Blazers been able to handle such lengthy departures from two of their starters? The answer isn’t very complicated. It’s because of Damian Lillard. Lillard is averaging a gaudy 29.8 points on 45/37/94 shooting splits, while chipping in 7.8 assists and 4.3 boards, and has cemented himself in the MVP conversation in the process.
The Blazers are ranked dead last in assist percentage, since the majority of their points come from guys who can create shots on their own, and they’ve just added another guy who checks the bucket-getter box in Norm Powell, who they acquired from the Toronto Raptors. Powell is averaging a career best 19.5 points per game and has personally torched the Pistons in his prior two games against Detroit, while he was with the Raptors.
In Powell’s first game against the Pistons this season, he dropped a then career high 36 points. When those two teams faced off two weeks later, he eclipsed that career high by scoring 43 points. So to say that Hamidou Diallo, Saddiq Bey, Josh Jackson (assuming he doesn’t get another DNP-CD) and Saben Lee are going to have their hands full tonight, is a massive understatement.
Detroit Pistons (13-33)
Saben Lee, Wayne Ellington, Saddiq Bey, Jerami Grant, Mason Plumlee
Portland Trail Blazers (28-18)
Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Norm Powell, Robert Covington, Jusuf Nurkic
Which player, or players, will find themselves as the odd man out tonight?