PLAYERS GRADED: BLAZERS 98, PISTONS 86
Tuesday, December 09, 2014
BLAZERS 98, PISTONS 86
The fourth quarter began with just one starter on the court, Wesley Matthews. The Blazers were up on the Pistons, 76-62, and presumably coach Terry Stotts hoped he'd have the opportunity to give his core some rest--Tuesday's game was, after all, the first night of a back-to-back.
But Detroit suddenly rattled off a 13-0 run. After leading by as many as 17, Portland were ahead by only four. Stotts had no choice; he sent the starters to the scorer's table.
Upon checking in, LaMarcus Aldridge scored two consecutive buckets, putting the Blazers up eight. Detroit remained just pesky enough, though, to keep Portland's starting unit on the floor the rest of the way.
The Blazers ended up winning by 12, which is nothing something to scoff at, per se. But, in the midst of a long road trip, and having to travel and play again in Minnesota the next day, the rest would've been nice. Moreover, the 3-19 Pistons are simply awful, and Portland's bench ought to be able to sustain such a lead.
But making things easy hasn't been the Blazers' M.O. this season (or last season, for that matter). They lean towards the dramatic, often playing down to inferior opponents only to come back and win in nail-biting fashion.
Which is all well and good for fans; less so for aching bodies in need of any and all possible respite during the grueling, bloated NBA season.
So a slight tinge of frustration accompanies Tuesday's win in Detroit, because for the better part of three quarters, the Blazers were indeed taking care of business, embarrassing a bunch of losers on their home court.
In the end though, the Blazers beat another pushover. They are now just one win away from matching last season's scintillating 18-4 start.
So yeah, harping on a team with one of the best records in the league, who've won 10 of their last 11 games may seem a bit nitpicky, but look at it this way: to even contend for an NBA title there's simply no margin for error.
LAMARCUS ALDRIDGE: B+
Though his shot--and overall offensive drive--wobbled a bit early, when the game got tight late, Aldridge checked in and hit two big buckets that essentially kneecapped the Piston's comeback. Aldridge, who finished with 23 points and 11 rebounds, also moved into second place on Portland's all-time scoring list, ahead of Terry Porter but still well-behind Clyde Drexler.
NICOLAS BATUM: C
With only one assist, Tuesday's wasn't quite the stat stuffing performance Batum has been providing as of late. He's looked more confident in his three-point shot, though he made only two of six attempts. He finished with eight points, five boards and one assist.
ROBIN LOPEZ: B-
Pretty workman-like effort from Lopez. His shot wasn't going, but against the hefty front line of the Pistons he grabbed 11 boards, five of which came on the offensive end.
WESLEY MATTHEWS: A
Matthews was the only Blazer starter to shoot over 50%, Tuesday. He made 3-of-6 from distance, and 8-of-12 overall, including a nifty floater which you don't seem him take too often. He added five points and five boards.
DAMIAN LILLARD: C+
Lillard's shot was off. He made just 1-of-5 tries from behind the arc and 6-of-14 overall. He made up for it with six assists, five boards and two steals.
CHRIS KAMAN: A
Kaman checked in and went immediately to work, schooling Detroit's bigs. He did most of his damage in the first half, scoring 12 points in 12 minutes. He finished with 14, plus three boards and two assists, while shooting 70% from the field.
ALLEN CRABBE: A-
It's almost to the point where a confident, complete performance from Allen Crabbe isn't a surprise. The second-year man can score, defend, shoot and run the floor. All of Crabbe's nine points came during a 12-minute stint in the first half--good enough for a career high.