The Trail Blazers did what they were supposed to do Saturday night in Moda Center – overpower the team with the worst record in the NBA’s Eastern Conference.
They did it in fits and spurts, but thanks to a historic rebounding game from Saturday's starting center, Enes Kanter, they got it done.
With Jusuf Nurkic taking a load-management night off, Kanter stepped in and gobbled up 30 rebounds in a 118-103 win over the Detroit Pistons.
And that wasn’t the only change in Portland’s playing rotation. Nassir Little played 23:55 off the bench – the most in the game by any Blazer reserve – and put in most of that time at guard.
The 6-5 former small forward with a reputed 7-2 wingspan scored 11 points on 5-5 shooting and led the second until with a plus-15 while on the court.
“The obvious thing is, Nas plays 2, he’s out there with Derek and Roco and Melo and so that lineup had more length,” Terry Stotts said. “With Nas’ ability to shoot the ball, and he still has the length to defend perimeter players, that was what we did tonight.
“You will be seeing it again… I think we have to continue to see how he does in that role.”
Does that mean he has moved ahead of Anfernee Simons in the playing rotation?
“Well,” Stotts said. ”He did tonight. So, yes.”
It’s obviously a move to tighten up the Trail Blazers’ defense.
“The coach was telling me he wants me to be, you know, one of the primary defenders,” Little said. “I know I have the athleticism and the strength. I think I have all the tools in order to be one of the best defenders in this entire league.”
The Trail Blazers may have played improved defense against the Pistons, but it was difficult to tell.
Detroit is 25th in the league in field-goal percentage at 44.8. Saturday night the Pistons shot 44.6 – while hitting just 22 of their 46 shots in the paint.
Nurkic is scheduled to play when the Trail Blazers come right back to Moda Sunday for a battle with the Miami Heat.
And just in case you were wondering, while setting a franchise record for rebounds in a game, Kanter fell just a bit short of the league record.
That was set, of course, by Wilt Chamberlain. Wilt once hauled in 55 in a game in 1960.