Pistons start West road trip

Essentials

  • Teams: Detroit Pistons (2-3) at Portland Trail Blazers (4-2)
  • Date: November 11, 2013
  • Time: 10:00 p.m.
  • Television: FSD

What to look for

The Detroit Pistons have lost back-to-back home games to two of the best teams in the league: the Indiana Pacers and Oklahoma City Thunder. That two-game set home was difficult, but the schedule only gets more bruising from here.

The Pistons will go out west for a four-game road trip where they take on the Portland Trail Blazers, Golden State Warriors, Sacramento Kings and Los Angeles Lakers.

The first stop will be tonight in Portland against a Blazers team that is literally hit or miss. Every single game they have played so far in this young season has been decided by double digits.

At first glance, that seems a bit odd because Portland boasts a top-five offense. The Blazers score 107.3 points per 100 possessions and also, they are the best team in the league at protecting the ball.

Portland’s statistical profile also reflects that they are in the league’s bottom third in defensive efficiency. When watching the Trail Blazers play, they look like a group that should make it seemingly impossible for opponents to score at the rim. The tandem of Robin Lopez and LaMarcus Aldridge presents a lot of size.

Consequently, one would assume they snuff everything around the rim. Mind you, that’s not quite the case. They can get caught out of position and surrender points directly at the rim.

Only 10 teams allow a higher conversion rate at the basket per NBA.com. Furthermore, the duo of Lopez and Aldridge has played 160 minutes together this season and yields on average 105.1 points per 100 possessions. Projected over the season, that is a bottom-five league defensive output.

Luckily for Terry Stotts, he has an offense that has protected his defense so far. I say so far because there are certainly things to like about Portland’s execution on that side of the ball, but not all of it positive.

For instance, the Blazers run a lot of pick-and-rolls early in the shot clock (also on the secondary break) to create movement and get defenses moving. The goal is not necessarily for a shot to come directly out of the action, but rather it’s an attempt at creating mismatches and attacking them.

The main benefactor is undoubtedly Aldridge. He is a jump shooting big man that thrives on posting up smaller players. The moment he sees an inferior defender on him, he immediately camps out in the post and bullies his defender for a shot at the rim.

Typically he does this quickly and gives the opposition very little time to react. Per Synergy Sports, 45.8 percent of his field goals stem from post-ups this season and in addition, he is converting 47.5 percent of those shots.

Keep in mind, Aldridge is infinitely more dangerous in the pick-and-roll where he hits 65 percent of his shots. There is just no way around it: The offense revolves around the big man’s exploits and that’s a good thing.

Where things get dicey however is with his teammates. The other Blazers players get their shots as a result of the schemes used when defending Portland’s starting power forward. In other words, the team is devoid of players capable of creating their own shots with the exception of Damian Lillard.

The end result is a team incredibly reliant on mid-range shooting. Synergy Sports tells us that the majority of Portland’s field goals come in spot-up situations. If we dig deeper, no team in the league takes more mid-range jumpers per game than Portland according to NBA.com.

To be fair, the Blazers also do a good job of hitting shots from downtown, but their offense makes it living in the in-between range. Jump shooting teams can get hot in a hurry and make it rain from all over the place in one half, but then go cold in the ensuing quarters and struggle.

Case in point, Portland only hit 40.7 percent of their field goals in their season opener against the Phoenix Suns. Detroit has struggled with defending the interior so far this season, but that is not an area of strength for the hosts tonight.

Thus, the Pistons might be able to get away with porous interior defense because the Blazers will be looking for mid-range jumpers. Maurice Cheeks must make sure his players are getting a hand up on every single shot and that will give them an opportunity to slow down one of the NBA’s best offenses.

Read about the Portland Trail Blazers

Portland Roundball Society.

Tags: Portland Trail Blazers THN-POR

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