Not to jinx it, but the Trail Blazers have been pretty healthy this season. The only injuries they’ve dealt with have been anything but catastrophic. Maurice Harkless has been in and out with shoulder issues, Evan Turner has had a bum knee, and of course CJ McCollum had his knee strain last Saturday against the Spurs. When CJ succumbed to his injury on the court, it didn’t look like much happened, but more often than not the injuries that look like nothing are anything but. Thankfully, it has been reported that CJ’s knee is not too worse for ware, and his recovery time should be relatively swift.
Losing half of one of the best back courts in the NBA is scary, but the Blazers have had little trouble filling the void CJ’s absence created. The Blazers dropped a tough game to the Spurs when CJ had to leave the court, but they’ve handily won the last two without him. Damian Lillard has again proven he is the rigid backbone of the Blazers. Dame doled out 27 assists in the last two contests with an average that sits at just over six per game. Like a good team leader, Dame has kept all of his contributors well fed on the offensive side. Seth Curry stepped up against the Mavericks and went four for seven from beyond the arc, and Jusuf Nurkic logged his now standard double-double in both games.
Per usual, the Blazers look like contenders in the tail end of the regular season. Whether or not that means anything in the final stretch remains to be seen. Las Vegas has the Blazers at 80/1 to win the Finals this season. Those aren’t great odds, but they’re not impossible.
Before the Blazers could get to said finals, they had to get through the Detroit Pistons last night. With Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond filling up the paint for the Pistons, the Blazers were gonna have to make sure their shooting game was on point.
Despite some struggles in the second half to retain a lead, the Blazers were able to wrap it up just in the nick of time, finishing off the Pistons 117 - 112.
Having likely watched some tape of recent Blazer wins, the Pistons put the screws in Dame wicked tight to start the first quarter. They rabidly double teamed him anytime he held the ball. Their efforts turned out to be relatively useless. Dame ended the first quarter putting up 11 points and four assists. In fact, the whole team didn’t force anything offensively. The ball was patiently passed and shuffled until the right shot was found. That was essentially the story for the entire first half. Curry showed up big scoring 16 in the half, and having been fairly quite in the last few months, Zach Collins finally woke up a bit and scored seven. He had two major muscle plays in the paint that were very nice to see.
After two and a half quarters of keeping a cool composure, the Blazers started rattling a bit. At just over the five minute mark of the third, the Pistons were able to get their first lead since the first few minutes of the game. Most of their offense sat on the shoulders of Griffin, Drummond, and Reggie Jackson. Griffin was doing most of the damage with 24 points before he sat with two minutes left in the third. The Pistons took a three point lead into the final quarter.
The struggle continued throughout much of the fourth quarter. Once the Pistons established their lead the Blazers couldn’t get enough stops to get over it. The Pistons lead got as high as six before the Blazers finally closed the gap and tied the game at 109 with less than two minutes to go. Thats when the “sixth man” kicked in. Obviously the players on the court are the ones who win the games, but in the Moda Center, when the Blazers make a run and come back from behind, the crowd is what pushes them over the top. Once the whole arena is on their feet and roaring for a rally, the energy transfer almost never fails. From there, two stops, a four point play from Dame, and a monster dunk from the Bosnian Beast would close the casket for the Pistons.