The Detroit Pistons had won seven of their last 10 games and brought their “A-Game” to Moda Center Saturday night.
But the Trail Blazers countered with an “A-plus Game” and finished off the Pistons with a flourish in the final two minutes to win 117-112.
Damian Lillard led the Portland parade, as usual, with his passing and his shooting. He finished with 28 points – hitting 9-16 from the floor, including 6-10 from three-point territory – to go with nine assists and six rebounds.
And down the stretch he was dictating the game, chapter and verse. But make no mistake, he had a lot of help on this night – the Trail Blazers got winning performances from just about everyone who played.
Portland trailed 109-103 with four and a half minutes to play but held the Pistons scoreless for the next four minutes.
Lillard hit Maurice Harkless knifing through the lane for a layup. He found Jusuf Nurkic for another layup and the game was tied with 1:58 to go.
Then, with the score tied, Nurkic made a terrific block on an Andre Drummond layup. Seth Curry found Lillard in the front court and Lillard nailed a 28-foot jumper to push his team into the lead, was fouled, and made the free throw.
It was downhill from there. Harkless passed to Nurkic for a dunk and then Al-Farouq Aminu jumped on a missed Lillard shot and banked in a basket with 4.1 seconds to go that provided the final margin.
It was a terrific outing for the Trail Blazers, who shot .544 from the field, .423 from three and outrebounded the bruising Pistons 42-29.
“A gutty and gritty win,” Terry Stotts said. “Basically we held them scoreless the last four and a half minutes. We made a lot of good defensive plays, big shots.”
You can find contributions everywhere:
- Harkless had 10 points, four assists and some big defensive plays.
- Aminu had a season-high 22 points, a lot of hustle plays and a solid defensive job on Blake Griffin.
- Nurkic had 15 points, six rebounds, three assists and two blocked shots.
- Enes Kanter mixed it up inside with Drummond and came away with 10 points and seven rebounds.
- Zach Collins had his usual quota of energy plays, as well as 4-6 from the field, four boards, a block and nine points.
- Seth Curry was 5-9, had 16 points and five rebounds.
It was quite a night for the home team, whose interior passing was a thing of beauty.
“When guys draw double-teams or guys just drive and somebody steps up, we’ve done a good job of finding the open man,” Harkless said.
Lillard probably had four or five “hockey assists,” where his pass led to the pass that resulted in the score. And that’s indicative of how well the Trail Blazers moved the ball around.
“Those are the plays you have to make in order to take advantage of what they were trying to do,” Lillard said. “I’m not always going to be the guy getting the assist when they’re out so high on me. Can the guy I pass the ball out to, make the next play? We had guys doing that.
“That’s what I mean when I say we’re making the right plays. The ball is going where it’s supposed to go. When it does that, you take advantage of what the other team is trying to do. Tonight we did a great job of that.
“We’ve been playing the style of play we want to play,” Lillard said. “And we can sustain that.”
Pistons Coach Dwane Casey, who has done an outstanding job with his team, loaded up against Lillard.
"You're not going to stop everything," he said. "They're one of the top offensive teams in the league. And we made a decision that we were going to try to keep the ball as much as possible out of Lillard's hands. And again, you take away one thing, you're going to open up something else."
The Blazers play host to the Brooklyn Nets Monday night before heading out on a four-game trip to Chicago, Atlanta, Detroit and Minnesota.