Blazers, Pistons meet amid postseason positioning
Both teams have their minds on playoff positioning as the visiting Portland Trail Blazers take on the Detroit Pistons on Saturday night.
Detroit (38-37) is trying to keep the sixth spot in the Eastern Conference standings. Portland (48-27) is one-half game ahead of Houston for the third seed in the West.
The Pistons beat the Orlando Magic 115-98 at home on Thursday but have won only four of their last 10 games. They went 1-4 on a recent road trip that ended with close losses at Portland, Golden State and Denver.
Center Andre Drummond collected 18 points, 18 rebounds and six blocked shots and outplayed Orlando's Nikola Vucevic, who had 12 points on 5-for-15 shooting. The Magic (37-39) could have passed the Pistons in the standings with a win.
"Just big time," Coach Dwane Casey said of Drummond's performance. "He did a great job commanding the boards and playing defense on one of the top centers in our league. Just an all-around excellent game."
"Being on the West Coast for seven days, coming back and establishing ourselves and getting into a good flow was really important," said Detroit's Blake Griffin, who finished with 20 points, 10 rebounds and five assists against the Magic. "I liked how we stepped up and met that challenge."
Detroit fell 117-112 at Portland on March 23. The Pistons blitzed Damian Lillard on pick-and-rolls and double-teamed him often, but the Blazers' All-Star point guard still managed 28 points, nine assists and six rebounds.
"You're not going to stop everything," Casey said. "They're one of the best offensive teams in the league, and we made a decision we were going to try to keep the ball as much as possible out of Lillard's hands. But you take away one thing, you're going to open up something else."
Portland is one of the hottest teams in the NBA. The Blazers have won in nine of their last 10 games after their 118-98 rout of the Atlanta Hawks on Friday night on the second stop of a four-game road trip.
The Blazers are going without two of their top three scorers -- guard CJ McCollum and center Jusuf Nurkic. McCollum has missed the last six games with a strained knee. Nurkic is out for the season after suffering a compound fracture of a leg Monday against Brooklyn.
Portland coach Terry Stotts has been starting 6-9 Jake Layman in place of McCollum, but Seth Curry has come off the bench for major contributions and has scored 20 points in three of the past five games. Enes Kanter is starting at center for Nurkic, but Stotts is also using Zach Collins and Meyers Leonard behind him.
Stotts said he plans to use the rest of the regular season to tinker with his rotation.
"We're going to look at different combinations," Stotts said. "They all give us different things. Enes is doing a good job at the offensive end and on the boards, Zach has given us energy and defense, and it's nice to have a chance to get Meyers back onto the floor."
--Field Level Media
Updated March 30, 2019