Originally posted on NorthWest Sports Beat  |  Last updated 3/16/13
Motown visits Rip City The Portland Trail Blazers have played both up and down to their competition this season. You’d think that a 30-point win over the San Antonio Spurs and a 15-point win over the New York Knicks would speak volumes to this team’s potential, but a two-point loss to the New Orleans Hornets sandwiched between the two is probably more telling. Matchup: Portland (30-34) vs. Detroit Pistons (23-44) Venue: The Rose Garden Time: 7:00 PM PT Date: Saturday, March 16, 2013 The visiting Detroit Pistons are the coldest team in the NBA, but that doesn’t mean much considering the inconsistency that has plagued Portland this year. Greg Monroe will make up one-half of the key matchup Monday night. (Photo: AP/Duane Burleson) Game Notes/How They Match Up Despite witnessing a solid win against the Knicks, it would be easy for Portland fans to get down on the team. This young, entertaining group is struggling to find consistency, and the playoffs still look like a long shot with just over a month to play. However, as frustrating as it’s been for fans thus far, Rip City has it easy compared to Motown at this point in the season. Coming into this contest, Detroit has dropped its last seven games. Ten of its last 11 have all been losses, and the team that once looked promising is proving to be one of the worst squads in the league. The losing trend has almost everything to do with the injury to Andre Drummond. The rookie was playing brilliantly before hurting his back, and since All-Star Weekend, the team is just 2-11. The Portland faithful can be frustrated with what they’ve seen if they want, but the real frustrations will come if the team can’t take down the group with the league’s longest losing streak Saturday night. What to Watch: Portland The last time Portland played Detroit, the team shot an awful percentage from the three-point line. On the season, the Blazers are just 23rd in long-distance shooting. They knock down 34.7 percent of their three-point attempts, but that number dropped to 31 percent on Nov. 26. Portland needs to move the ball well in order to find good looks. Isolation basketball can work with momentum on your side, but good movement can create offense when your shots are falling. The Blazers have good shooters on this roster, but it’s a matter of getting them good looks to match their skills. What to Watch: Detroit When it comes to the Pistons, the player to watch out for is Greg Monroe. The big man in the middle has emerged as one of the NBA’s best young centers. He is averaging 15.9 points and 9.5 rebounds in 33 minutes per game, and he is very good at controling an offense with his passing ability. The glaring hole in Monroe’s game is defense, which means J.J. Hickson will look to take advantage. J.J. Hickson has been shooting as well as anybody on the Blazers’ roster as of late. If he can take Monroe off the dribble, he’ll find good looks at the rim; but if Monroe wants to give him space in the mid range, the jump shot will be his No. 1 option. Damian Lillard must player better than the last time he faced the Pistons. (Photo: Carlos Osorio/AP) Monroe has the offensive tools to destroy Portland inside, but how well he plays defense will sway this outcome one way or the other. Key Matchup Damian Lillard may be just 64 games into his NBA career, but it’s become painfully clear that the team’s success rises and falls based on how well he plays. In his first-ever matchup against Detroit, Damian Lillard was drastically outplayed by Brandon Knight. The Pistons’ point guard finished with 26 points on 9-of-17 shooting, and while he won’t likely be in the lineup Saturday, the team will look for similar production out of Jose Calderon. Lillard, on the other hand, missed his first 12 shots back in November and managed to score just 12 points on the night. The problem wasn’t his lack of scoring—it was his inefficient shooting. He made just four of his 18 shots, including just one of his five three pointers. He’ll have to have a better performance for Portland to compete, and he’ll have to start with getting good looks at the rim to make life easy. Injury Report Portland: OUT—Victor Claver Detroit: DAY-TO-DAY—Brandon Knight Prediction The Pistons surprised Portland for its fourth win back in late November, but there should be no surprises this time at the Rose Garden. Blazers 98 – Detroit 90 CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT THE BLAZERS BLOG IN OUR CLUBHOUSE TODAY AT NWSB!
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