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An inside look at the Detroit Pistons and the NBA.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Pistons at Blazers preview

The opponent — The Blazers were a darkhouse contender by many in the Western Confernce and are 8-4 after staring out the season 2-3. Portland is 6-1 since inserting free-agent acquisition Andre Miller into the staring lineup, the lone loss being in overtime at 9-2 Atlanta on Monday.

With Miller in the starting lineup, the Blazers start three guards in Miller, Steve Blake and Brandon Roy. The Pistons can do one of two things against this smaller lineup, roll with the same starting five and try to make the Blazers adjust to Jonas Jerebko’s size or the more logical approach would be to start Will Bynum at point guard and move Rodney Stuckey to the 3.

Roy is Portland’s franchise player and is averaging 20.3 points, 5.1 assists and 4.9 rebounds per game. Roy presents all kinds of defensive headaches for teams and limiting him will have to be one of the Pistons keys to victory.

LaMarcus Aldridge (14.7 points and 8.0 rebounds) is the Blazers top low-post presence and is joined in the frontcourt by former No. 1 overall pick Greg Oden (9.8 points, 8.4 rebounds, 2.3 blocks).

Top reserve Travis Outlaw is out indefinitely with a stress fracture in his left foot. That leaves Rudy Fernandez (8.3 points) and former starter Martell Webster (7.3 points) as Portland’s top two players off the bench. Joel Przybilla adds depth along the Blazers frontcourt.

Portland’s defense is allowing a league-best 87.1 points per game and the Blazers lead the league in free-throw percentage at 83.1 percent.

Key matchup — Pistons Charlie Villanueva vs. Blazers LaMarcus Aldridge: Villanueva is coming off his worst offensive game as a Piston, where he finished with two points on one for six shooting, but he also played just over 23 minutes as he remained on the bench for the entire fourth quarter. It was the first time Villanueva failed to reach double figures since the home opener against the Thunder.

Villanueva’s defense will likely be as important as his offense and the former UConn star is playing some of the best defense of his career. He is averaging 1 block and 0.7 steals per game, along with 5.6 rebounds. Aldridge is difficult to guard and is capable of scoring in a variety of ways. He also shoots a high percentage (49.3 percent).

The skinny — Detroit is playing its fourth game in five days, but the good news, if any, that came out of the loss to the Lakers was most of the starters didn’t play many minutes. Ben Wallace played just 19 minutes and Ben Gordon and Rodney Stuckey both played just over 31 minutes.

Pistons coach John Kuester elected not to put his starters back in the game when Detroit pulled within seven in the fourth quarter and let the reserves try to complete the comeback. I have to believe the idea was to save his starters’ legs for tonight’s game.

The Blazers had Tuesday off after falling in overtime at Atlanta on Monday. The loss was the final game of a five-game road trip for Portland, which went 4-1 on the trip.

The game will likely come down to which trio of guards plays better, the Pistons Stuckey, Bynum and Gordon vs. the Blazers Roy, Miller and Blake. It will be interesting to see what starting five Kuester goes with and for how long. Bynum has been the Pistons most consistent scorer as of late and is averaging 21.8 points in his last four games.

Blazers 94, Pistons 90; Pemberton’s record 6-5


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