Pistons battle, but Portland’s perimeter punch too much to overcome without Grant’s scoring
Sam Forencich (NBAE/Getty)
Three quick observations from Saturday night’s 118-103 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers at Moda Center
CAN’T KEEP UP – Playing hard consistently has kept the Pistons in most games this season, but there are nights – especially when they’re without the firepower Jerami Grant supplies – where they can’t make the scoreboard move fast enough to keep up with elite offenses. And Portland, with the NBA’s fifth-rated offense and as much perimeter firepower as anyone, qualifies as an elite offensive team. The Trail Blazers hit 8 of 12 3-point shots over the game’s first 14 minutes to provide a 16-point lead. The Pistons closed to within a point before Portland finished the first half on an 8-0 run. Portland spurted again early in the third quarter, led by 19 heading to the fourth and maintained a double-digits lead until the final buzzer. Josh Jackson led the Pistons with 21 points. Enes Kanter, starting with Jusuf Nurkic sitting out for injury management, had a huge game for Portland, finishing with 24 points points and a Blazers-record 30 rebounds, while the potent backcourt of Damian Lillard (27) and C.J. McCollum (26) combined for 53 points. Mason Plumlee returned for the Pistons after missing Thursday’s game at Sacramento in concussion protocol. Dwane Casey wound up using all three of his centers – Plumlee for 18 minutes, Isaiah Stewart for 21 and Jahlil Okafor, who returned from a two-month absence to score 11 points at Sacramento on Thursday, for nine.
SEKOU STEPS UP – With Jerami Grant missing his second straight game since scoring 29 points on Tuesday in his first game back at Denver since leaving the Nuggets to join the Pistons in free agency, Josh Jackson again drew the start in his place. The ripple effect of Grant’s absence is the opportunity for Sekou Doumbouya, 20, to get more playing time – though Dwane Casey said before the game that Doumbouya has earned his minutes as he acquires a greater understanding of what’s required to play in the NBA in his second season. Doumbouya was part of the second-quarter spurt when the Pistons whittled a 16-point deficit to one, scoring seven points, grabbing two rebounds and racking up an assist and doing the running and cutting that plays to his strengths. He’s also become a more responsible defender and had several solid defensive possessions against Carmelo Anthony. Doumbouya finished with 11 points, three rebounds, an assist, two blocks and two steals in 23 minutes. Grant, the Pistons leading scorer this season at 22.5 points per game, sat with right knee soreness. He’s averaging a career-high 34.4 minutes per game this season and has played in 48 of 53 games.
FINDING HIS WAY – Frank Jackson, playing on a two-way contract since the Pistons picked him up after Oklahoma City waived him coming out of training camp, continues to earn minutes and put himself on the radar for 2021-22. Jackson’s major advancement this season has come as a 3-point shooter. Entering the game hitting 43.1 percent after shooting 31.9 percent from the 3-point arc in his two seasons with New Orleans, Jackson hit 2 of 5. He scored 11 first-half points, helping the Pistons rally from 16 down to pull within one, and finished with 17 points, four rebounds and two assists. Jackson has the athleticism that allows him to get into the paint and finish. The Pistons have played him almost exclusively off the ball this season as Jackson hasn’t generated much traction as a playmaker over his NBA career but is showing the qualities that could make him a valuable scoring option off of the bench.