Despite Injuries, Blazers Extend Home Win Streak To 10

by Casey Holdahl
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Shorthanded or not, the Trail Blazers were not going to lose at home after returning home from another disappointing road trip.

Despite being without three players in their regular rotation, including two starters, the Trail Blazers dispatched of the Detroit Pistons 110-92 in front of a crowd of 16,071 Tuesday night at Moda Center.

“I feel like we played well,” said head coach Chauncey Billups. “I didn’t think we shot it well. But you definitely take a win when you can get it. I didn’t feel like we shot the ball great, but I felt like we played with a lot of urgency and purpose for the most part in the game. And I’ll take that any day.”

The Trail Blazers are now 11-11 overall and have won 10-straight games at home for the first time since the 2008-09 season. Portland has also won four-straight versus Detroit.

Playing without Damian Lillard (abdominal tendinopathy), Norman Powell (right quad contusion) and Nassir Little (left ankle sprain) in the second game of a back-to-back after fresh off of returning from a 0-3 road trip are the kind of variables that would often result in a loss. But the Trail Blazers had a few things going for them.

First, they were hosting a rebuilding Pistons team with just four wins that entered Tuesday’s contest on a six-game losing streak. Granted, the Trail Blazers have shown that they’re more than capable of games to teams with much less talent, but those teams are usually replete with cagey veterans, not rookies and sophomores still figuring out how they fit in the NBA.

But more important to the Trail Blazers chances Tuesday night was the location of the contest. The Blazers have lost just once at Moda Center this season where they average an additional 10-plus points and shoot threes almost seven percentage-point better than they do on the road. For as much as they’ve struggled on the road this season, they’ve been nearly unbeatable at home through the first six weeks of the 2021-22 season.

So as long as they got quality performances from the regular starters who were available Tuesday night and had a few reserves turned rotation players step up, their chances of closing out the month with yet another home win seemed likely.

And that’s just what happened. Both CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic turned in efficient performances, Anfernee Simons did enough to make up for Lillard’s absence and Ben McLemore, who had played just 20 minutes in the last four games, went 5-of-10 from the field in 18 minutes off the bench.

“I was really, really happy for Ben,” said Billups. “That’s kind of what we envisioned for Ben the whole time. He’s one of those x-factor guys that he could not play for a while and whenever you put him in, he’s just going to be who he is. He can go out there and make 5 or 6 threes at any time. I just love not only that he made the shots, but the pace that he was playing with, coming off of those screens with. Defensively, he played really hard—didn’t miss assignments out there. That’s a pro.”

So after a relatively close first half, the Trail Blazers outscored the Pistons by 12 in the third quarter to take a 21-point lead into the fourth. Portland’s lead would grow to as many as 26 points in the fourth before Billups turned the game over to the end of the bench to ride out what would be an 18-point victory.

McCollum went 11-of-26 from the field for 28 points, six assists, four rebounds and two steals in 36 minutes. With a three-pointer in the second quarter, McCollum moved passed Cliff Robinson for the fifth on the Trail Blazers all-time scoring list.

Nurkic finished with 13 points, eight rebounds and five assists in 27 minutes.

McLemore contributed 17 points off the bench, just two points fewer than he had scored this season prior to Tuesday’s game. Simons went 5-of-14 for 12 points, six rebounds and five assists in 35 minutes. Dennis Smith Jr. played nearly 17 minutes and finished with 11 points and three assists.

Rookie Cade Cunningham led the Pistons with 26 points on 10-of-13 shooting.

Next up, the Trail Blazers continue a four-game homestand by hosting the Spurs Thursday night. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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