Injuries have been the story for the entire season as far as the Trail Blazers are concerned. And it’s gotten to the point now -- with Damian Lillard sidelined with a groin injury -- that Coach Terry Stotts can’t go to his bench without causing some serious damage.
The Trail Blazers jumped to a 19-point lead just eight minutes into Sunday night’s game with the lowly Detroit Pistons but then Stotts went to his bench.
The lead was still 16 after the first quarter, but with four reserves on the floor at the same time in the second period, bad things began to happen for Portland.
Detroit rattled off 18 of the first 21 points in the quarter and the game was tied and a dogfight the rest of the way.
It took some major heroics -- and major minutes -- from CJ McCollum, Carmelo Anthony and Hassan Whiteside to pull the Trail Blazers out of a 10-point, second-half deficit and into a 107-104 win.
Granted, Detroit got terrific play from its reserves, but the facts were the facts when this one ended:
The Pistons’ bench outscored the Portland bench 70-10.
That was 70-10!
To make up for that, McCollum needed to get 41 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds while playing 43:15. Anthony scored 32 in 37:21. Whiteside totaled 16 points, had 17 rebounds and four blocked shots in 38:26.
McCollum played the entire second half and Whiteside played most of it. And throughout the second half, Stotts kept two starters on the floor at all times, rather than just one, as he did in the first half.
“CJ played the whole second half,” Stotts said. “I don’t like doing that -- it was just one of those games where it was vital he stayed in the game. I don’t plan on doing that. Obviously, the rotation changed the second half.”
Does he plan to make a practice of that?
“Well, if I play them the whole second half I can do that.”
To win against the better teams, he may have to do that.
It was a crazy game in another way, too.
Throughout the first three quarters, Detroit was parading to the foul line and Portland just wasn’t getting there.
After three quarters, the Pistons were 19-20 from the line while the Blazers were a puny 5-9. But it was if somebody flipped a switch and either Portland suddenly started playing much better defense than Detroit or the referees just noticed the imbalance and decided to do something about it.
In the fourth quarter, Portland was 7-10 from the line -- more attempts than the entire game to that point. Meanwhile, the Pistons were 0-0. That’s right, they didn’t get a foul shot in the fourth quarter.
Such things help.
And right now, the Trail Blazers need all the help they can get.