Opponent Scouting: Portland Trail Blazers. (16-22)
Tonight the Pistons begin a west coast trip in Portlandia with a game at 10:00pm EST. (rip my sleeping pattern for the next week) The Pistons are on one day of rest after beating the Hornets on Thursday, and the Blazers are also on one day of rest after beating the Lakers on Thursday.
The Blazers are having a somewhat similar season to the Pistons, a team who was a bit of a surprise and nice story last year that has come out and struggled, with the only difference being that it is way worse for the Blazers if they are not good because their team might now be full of bad contracts. They have a rock solid offense with an efficiency of 107.3, but their defense is comically bad with an efficiency of 109.8.
They are lead by Damian Lillard, who is really good averaging 26.8 points and 6.8 assists per game on very good efficiency. He launches high difficulty 3s off the dribble without hesitation and is also a very capable slasher and will dunk all over you if you let him. His defense is not good though. C.J. McCollum is 2nd in command averaging 23.3 points per game, he is not quite as terrifying from deep as Lillard is and no where near the passer, but he is almost as scary as an overall scorer. Beyond those two, Maurice Harkless is a good defender with some touch on offense and has managed to get up to being a decent shooter from deep. Allen Crabbe is a shooter and a fairly versatile, if not all that good, defender. Mason Plumlee can pass and handle the ball well for a big and is generally a smart player but he is not a very good defender. Al-Farouq Aminu is a very good and versatile defender but he has been hurt for a decent amount of the season and has shot horribly so far this year. Evan Turner has largely been a disaster for the Blazers this year but he is pretty capable of running a bench mob offense, the problem is that he is largely useless when Lillard and/or McCollum are on the floor. Ed Davis is a good athletic center who would probably start on quite a few teams, Meyers Leonard can shoot 3s as a big and do pretty much nothing else. Noah Vonleh is running out of time to show that he is capable of doing much of anything good on an NBA court, his best thing is probably that he can play at least a little bit of defense.
The Blazers can't figure out how to play good defense, and it largely stems from the same issues that the Pistons have, they just don't have many guys on the roster who are good defenders, and unlike the Pistons they don't have KCP and Andre on the team. They can score a ton though and will not be an easy out at home.
Matchups to watch:
Andre vs. The Fishing Village: Andre has shown pretty clearly that he owns the Blazers. They have no bigs who can hang with him. When he gets to go against guys that can't box him out it is like Godzilla vs. a fishing village in the south pacific somewhere. He should have a huge game.
Pistons vs. Lillard/McCollum: KCP can only take one of them, and it will be another chance for KCP to show that he can still dig deep and get back to the world class defense he played last year. Whichever one KCP doesn't guard though will almost certainly be a problem, and it will be a team effort on both of them regardless. Expect Andre to spend a lot of time out of the paint to keep them from getting open 3s.
Tobias for 6th man of the year: Until he cools off this is going to be a thing. Tobias has been awesome off the bench and the bench has been awesome with him. Also, even though he almost certainly won't make it, he has re-started his bid to be worthy of an all star spot.
Baynes? Baynes? BOBAN: Speaking of fishing villages... (svg plz)
Marcus Morris vs. Not being bad: Marcus managed to break out a bit in the last game, but he has been struggling lately. If last game was an indicator that he is back in full form then it will be a big help to the Pistons.
Reggie vs. Keeping at his game: Reggie has played very well the last several games and appears back to being himself. Tonight should be another really good game for him as he will (probably) spend most of the night with Lillard on him and Plumlee protecting the rim. He needs to keep tuning out the noise and playing his game.
Stanley Johnson vs. Destroying people on defense: He has really had some nice defensive outings lately. It is just fun to watch a guy with his physical talents start to have it click on defense, hopefully he can keep it up.
So in conclusion...
Wink knowingly at your friends if:
The Blazers are the fishing village.
Reggie is getting easy lanes to the hoop all night.
Run for the hills if:
Damian Lillard starts hitting lots of shots.
McCollum starts hitting lots of shots.
Aron Baynes plays again.
Opportunities for me to look stupid:
Andre and Reggie both have huge games.
Tobias scores 30 off the bench.
Damian Lillard gets close to 40 points.
Pistons survive the raining death from Damian Lillard to win a close game on the road.
What do you think? Can the Pistons hold Lillard? Will Boban play?