Game Details: Palace of Auburn Hills, Detroit, MI. 3:00 PM. TV: CSN. Radio: KXTG (95.5 FM)
Projected Portland Starting Lineup: PG Andre Miller (#24, 6′2″, Utah), SG Wesley Matthews (#2, 6′5″, Marquette), SF Nicolas Batum (#88, 6′9″, France), PF LaMarcus Aldridge (#12, 6′11″, Texas), C Dante Cunningham (#33, 6′9″, Villanova)
Projected Detroit Starting Lineup: PG Tracy McGracy (#1, 6’8″, Mt. Zion Christian Academy), SG Rodney Stuckey (#3, 6’5″, Eastern Washington), SF Tayshaun Prince (#22, 6’9″, Kentucky), PF Chris Wilcox (#9, 6’10, Maryland), C Greg Monroe (#10, 6’11″, Georgetown)
As they did on Friday in Toronto, the Blazers today face one of those teams in the league that make us look at Portland’s injury woes and think “Hey, it could be a whole lot worse.” Unlike the Raptors, who the Blazers managed to beat despite an extremely shaky third quarter, these Detroit Pistons don’t even have a stable of young, up-and-coming talent to feel optimstic about. Look at the list of Detroit’s top contributors, and it reads like an All-Star team from five or six years ago. Rip Hamilton is having a mediocre shooting season at best, and his dissatisfaction with his once-great team’s turn of fortune has caused him to have an almost complete falling-out with coach John Kuester. He’s been in the doghouse for a large chunk of the season, and he is currently day-to-day with a groin injury. Tracy McGrady has played solidly, but he’s having far from the career-resurrecting year he was hoping for. Ben Gordon? Nowhere near as effective as he was in Chicago. Tayshaun Prince, once thought to be the apple of Portland’s eye, has long been eclipsed by Nicolas Batum at this point.
The Pistons’ best young players are third-year point guard Rodney Stuckey and rookie small forward Austin Daye. Stuckey is the team’s leading scorer, with 15.2 a game. Needless to say, this is not a high-octane offense. This team is a mess, and it’s hampered by a slew of bad contracts to players who aren’t performing, meaning they aren’t getting better anytime soon. Expect to see a lot of Patty Mills tonight, as the Blazers would do well to run—Detroit won’t be able to keep up.
Toronto was a team the Blazers should have been able to beat simply by not playing terribly, and they did. Detroit is the same way. Don’t screw up too badly, and you’ll be fine. All the usual keys remain in place: there’s nobody in Detroit’s frontcourt who should prevent LaMarcus Aldridge from having a huge night. Rudy Fernandez has been on a shooting tear of late and should continue tonight. Andre Miller, Wesley Matthews, and Nicolas Batum are all better than anybody on the Pistons’ roster. This is one of the few games where the Blazers’ lack of depth at center won’t hurt them too much, because Ben Wallace isn’t exactly at the top of his game either. There is no excuse for the Blazers not to win this game.