Blazers prevail in offensive duel with Pistons
Things must be on the upswing if Terry Stotts is grousing about the Trail Blazers' performance in a victory.
"I was pleased with our offense, disappointed with our defense," the second-year Portland coach said after the Blazers' 109-103 victory over Detroit Monday night at the Moda Center. "Ultimately, we made stops when we needed to. You can overanalyze a win but it shows we still have room to grow."
Portland (5-2) won its third straight game despite losing the points-in-the-paint battle 60-36. Detroit's dynamic young inside duo, 6-11 bookends Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe, combined for 35 points and 24 rebounds.
But the Blazers had too much offense for the Pistons (2-4), coached by one-time Blazer boss Maurice Cheeks.
Damian Lillard bounced back from one of the worst shooting nights of his career with 25 points to lead six Blazers in double figures on a night when Portland shot .512 from the field, .478 from 3-point range and .933 from the foul line.
The middle figure caught the eye of Cheeks, who noted the 24-point disparity (Portland's 11 for 23, Detroit's 3 for 14) from beyond the arc.
"The difference was the Blazers shot 3's," Cheeks said. "They have inside and outside presence, but all of their prominent guys shoot 3's, and it happened tonight."
Lillard was coming off a 1-for-15 shooting night in Portland's 96-85 victory at Sacramento on Saturday. He was 7 for 16 against Detroit but was big on the money balls, making 5 of 8 attempts at treys, while going 6 for 6 from the line.
"I didn't shoot the ball well at Sacramento, but I thought I played a good game other than that, and we won," said Lillard, who also had five rebounds and four assists in 35 minutes. "I didn't think about it too much. I took the same shots I've been taking; they just went in."
Lillard got plenty of backcourt help from Mo Williams, the offseason acquisition who was supposed to provide offense off the bench but had shot .370 from the field in the first six games.
The 30-year-old veteran was a first-half Scud missile, bombing in 15 points on 7-for-7 shooting. He finished 7 for 9 for 17 points with four assists in 32 minutes, employing the same mind-set as Lillard.
"I really wasn't too concerned about (his shooting)," Williams said. "I felt all the other aspects of my game have been there. Me shooting the ball, I didn't stress out about it. I didn't get extra shots up. I didn't do those things. I knew it would come, the rhythm of everything."
"Mo always picks up the pace of the game with the speed he plays at," Lillard said. "Tonight, he made shots, he made plays for guys, and (while) guarding (Brandon) Jennings he was pursuing over every pick-and-roll. He changed the game. That's what we needed him to do."
The other Blazer in rhythm Monday night was Robin Lopez, the 7-foot center who came in averaging 6.7 points and 5.5 rebounds. With his mother, Deborah Ledford, in the stands, Lopez went for season highs in points (17) and rebounds (12), making 7 of 10 shots while displaying some nice moves around the basket.
"His mom is here," said teammate LaMarcus Aldridge, who contributed 18 points and 12 rebounds. "She's staying the rest of the season now, man.
"He was making post moves, going to the basket, throwing dimes to me. He blocked shots, he rebounded, he scored, he was talking more. he played with the energy we need to see from him."
"I love Robin," Stotts said. "He plays hard every minute he's out there. He gives effort on the boards at both ends. He's a great team player. He does what we need him to do. When he's able to contribute offensively, that's great. He's a really important part of our team."
Lopez, though, was having to work at both ends Monday night. So, too, was Aldridge. Drummond, 20, made 8 of 9 shots en route to a 16-point, 16-rebound performance. Monroe, 23, was 9 for 17 and contributed 19 points and eight boards.
Throw in 28 points from Detroit point guard Jennings and it wasn't an easy night for the Blazers, who led 58-55 after a high-octane first half. Portland was in front only 83-80 early in the fourth quarter but finally got some separation, outscoring the Pistons 24-14 over the next seven minutes to take a 107-94 advantage with 4 1/2 minutes to go.
Detroit roared back with a 9-0 run to get to within 107-103 with 1:30 remaining but failed to score on its next two possessions. When Lillard bagged a pair of gift shots with 12.8 seconds left, it was over.
The Pistons "have bigs who can crash the offensive glass," Lillard said. "They got a few tips, a couple of bounces went their way, Jennings hit some tough shots, and they got themselves back in the game.
"We understand that's going to happen. We know we have to get the stops we need to at the end of a game in order to weather the storm."
Stotts will be asking for more from his players as the season wears on, especially at the defensive ends.
"I'd like to get to the point where we're able to take away (an opponent's) strength better," he said. "Tonight, I'd liked to have rebounded better. The first half, I'd like to have controlled their transition (game) better. Shots at the rim -- control that better. Just get to the point where we don't let teams do what they do quite as well as they normally do."
NOTES: Portland's next action is Wednesday night at home against Phoenix. Nicolas Batum had another strong all-around game with 12 points, eight assists and three rebounds. He worked a couple of nice pick-and-rolls with Lopez. "I have a good connection with him," Batum said. "He sets good screens. He's going to be open every time. I'll be looking for him." Was Lopez more motivated with his mother in attendance? "Obviously," he said. "She's my mama." Did Williams feel like he had a big shooting game in him? "I feel like I have it in me every day," he said. "I have a lot of confidence in my shot. I took a lot of deep breaths and let the shots come when they come. I try to make plays for guys when they're there, and everything should work out."
Aldridge failed to reach the 20-point mark for the first time this season. His six-game streak was the Blazers' longest to open the season since Clyde Drexler scored 20 the first 12 games in 1988-89. Aldridge became the sixth player in Portland history with 4,000 career rebounds. Monroe on Aldridge: "He's a tough cover. He's one of the best in the game." Portland got strong contributions from reserves Dorell Wright (season-high 11 points, including 3 for 5 from 3-point territory) and Joel Freeland (six points, six rebounds). The Blazers' seven straight games with eight or more 3-pointers is the club's longest such streak since the advent of the 3-point line in 1979-80. Cheeks was Portland's coach from 2001-05. "I always enjoy coming back," he said. "It's a good place. It's not the Rose Garden anymore (it's the Moda Center), but it's always nice to come back and see folks you haven't seen for a while." One of Cheeks' assistants is former Blazer Rasheed Wallace. He was not in the mood for interviews afterward.