Trail Blazers fall flat against Pistons, close road trip with 94-91 loss

Winning the last ten out of thirteen matches, the Portland Trail Blazers (9-7) after taking care of the Raptors last night, had high hopes in closing out this grueling six-game road trip  with another seemingly easy win over a Detroit Pistons (4-13) team that hasn’t experience much home wins this season. Losing the last six straight to Portland, the interesting roster mix of the Pistons had to go along without Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva and turn to their young guns in big man Greg Monroe and rookie Brandon Knight. Portland had to go without Gerald Wallace for the night as he strained his finger last night had opted for Nic Batum in his starting place. The unusual high percentage shooting was surprising for Detroit, given they are in the lower ends of the league in points per game, one statistic was they only averaged 40 points in the first half this whole season. The Pistons grabbed the lead during the second quarter and made key shots well throughout to edge the Blazers and hand them yet another disappointing loss to end the road trip.

First quarter saw some pretty healthy shooting for both teams, LaMarcus Aldridge was looking to back up his career night from the 33 point, 23 rebound outing in Toronto. The Blazers were 6-10 from the floor, Wesley Matthews and Raymond Felton hitting some threes here, Aldridge takes on Monroe down low to scoop in some points, Batum races past Rodney Stuckey to lay it in. Detroit was in the mix as well, threes by Tayshaun Prince and Stuckey, while Monroe is found for the foul line jumper. Things were tied for the most part as both hang around the 46% shooting percentage and Portland are only up 27-26 after one.

The Blazers would see their lead balloon to its largest of three from a high arching shot by Jamal Crawford but the Blazers commit so many fouls when Detroit crowds the painted area that it gives the Pistons free points at the line to keep them alive. Portland drop their percentage to a lowly 39% and can only score three points by the 7:45 mark of the second. With a weird lineup of Crawford, Craig Smith, Kurt Thomas and even Luke Babbitt, baskets weren’t falling and it allows the Pistons to fuel a 12-0 run. Having no success at the rim, Portland found it hard to get anything done as they were bumped around and bullied underneath, with no calls headed their way. Stuckey and Jonas Jerebko hit more threes and the lead is now 11, shooting 55% on the floor all thanks to a 21-5 run. It hurt the Blazers when Aldridge, Batum and Chris Johnson were flirting with serious foul trouble, and it gave Detroit to simply tack on points, taking an enjoyable 54-43 lead at the half.

Thinking the Blazers would be pumped up after half, they came out stale, cold and stiff, falling behind as many as 16 points and the quiet Detroit crowd (felt more like a lame high school game) was hyped up, finally the Pistons are winning! Like a repeat sitcom episode, Portland then have the fight back from the giant hole, capping a 16-2 run that ends with Batum hitting a three, Detroit wasn’t fazed however, still taking the five point lead. A pair of Aldridge free throws cut the lead 81-80 with five minutes left but it would be considered the last time Portland would ever threaten. The Pistons hit money on the right time in key possessions, Portland’s comeback is continuously halted, and the lead is once again five. Without the precious amounts of time outs, Portland who was feeling the heat let Felton and Matthews hound Knight for some turnovers, but shots are clanking off the rim. In last-ditch efforts, Batum and Felton go ahead for threes but aren’t successful, losing another tough one and head back to Portland with a long time to think about what went wrong during the trip.

LaMarcus Aldridge started things off on a good note but faltered late in the game, 25 Pts, 4 Reb, 2 Ast on 9-17 shooting. Ouch. One bright spot that needs some sort of recognition is the improving play of Raymond Felton, he teased a double-double night, going for 20 Pts, 9 Ast (most in the first half, drawing in the defense and kicking it out to an open Aldridge or Craig Smith for easy points). With Gerald Wallace nursing a bum finger, Nic Batum flashed some brilliance but was otherwise shut down, scoring 14 Pts, 9 Reb, 3 Ast and a frustrating 1-7 from three. Craig Smith had 10 Pts off the bench, and we even got to see some playing time from Luke Babbitt, who had the fun of guarding a highly experienced Tayshaun Prince, who took full advantage of Babbitt’s lack of size and speed, he played just four minutes and committed two fouls.

Portland had the offensive rebound in their favor early on, grabbing 6 compared to none by Detroit. They won the overall rebound battle 38-34 and scored 42 points in the paint, in part because the three is getting harder to come by, just 3-20 by the end. Other than 42% overall shooting, 20-24 from the foul line and 9 turnovers, Portland played a very bland and vanilla style of game.

The Pistons can celebrate a rare home victory, thanks to 44% shooting and it grew to as much as 55% at one point. Rodney Stuckey comes off the bench and always seems to play well against the Blazers, a team high 28 Pts, 4 Reb, 5 Ast and 4-5 from deep. Tayshaun Prince had 17 Pts and 3 Blks to lead Detroit starters, followed by rookie Brandon Knight with 14 Pts, Greg Monroe was kept to just 10 Pts and 8 Reb.

Portland can finally come home after being on the road for ten days but not in the fashion that they thought they could play. Four losses, most of them disappointments and games that if the Blazers hit at the right time, would’ve walked away with a W in their pocket. Was it mental fatigue that doomed the Blazers tonight? Could be, but Portland will need to find themselves and some energy drinks soon, next week will drag the Blazers through three straight games in a row, starting on Monday against the Sacramento Kings.

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