A very bad performance from Damian Lillard will be forgotten because he hit the shot that mattered most, winning the game for the Portland Trail Blazers in overtime with a huge off-balance jumper that went in to give them the 111-109 win, carrying on with their impressive start to the season at the expense of the Detroit Pistons.
Lillard hitting that jumper wasn’t the only big shot he made. The Blazers were rallying to come back, and Lillard sneaked into the paint and with a tip in made good on a LaMarcus Aldridge miss that helped Portland get it down to three before it reached the 99-99 point, going into overtime.
There comes a point when tough shots stop falling, and that was something for the Blazers to worry about. They shot only 41.4% from the field and 26.9% from beyond the arc. Lillard wasn’t shy of shooting despite so many misses, finishing with 6-of-21 from the field. He missed all of his seven three point attempts. This wasn’t a game in which the numbers pointed towards a Portland win.
However, they were the less bad team defensively compared to the Pistons as the teams traded shots in overtime after splitting the first four quarters, and right now have the better playmaker. Brandon Jennings and Rodney Stuckey are the only two players the Pistons have who can put the ball on the floor and create shots and points without anyone’s help, but it also comes at very low efficiency, combining to score 32 points on 34 field goal attempts (38.2% from the field).
Lillard wasn’t the only one for the Blazers having a hard time finding offensive consistency. Wesley Matthews was only 5-of-13 from the field to score 14 points and Mo Williams with 8 points off the bench hit only 30% from the field. However, LaMarcus Aldridge, one of the early MVP candidates that will fall through as the season progresses, had another big night with 27 points and 12 rebounds. Nicolas Batum had a rough night on defense with Josh Smith, but shot 7-0f-13 from the field, scoring 18 points with 5 rebounds and 5 assists.
Josh Smith was a surprising contributor on the night, finally refraining from playing like a perimeter players and tormenting Batum on the post. Smith ended up scoring 31 points on a 13-of-17 shooting night. It might have ended with a loss, but this is the kind of performance the Pistons need from their very expensive free agent, who is only a small forward by position definition on paper.
Robin Lopez continues to fly under the radar on a team filled with talented players. Still, someone like him is very much needed for the dirty work, the tip ins and creating second chance shots. He grabbed six offensive rebounds, finishing with 12 points. He might not be among the best centers in the league, but it’s a huge improvement compared to J.J. Hickson last season, who was just another power forward who has a very limited skill set making his athleticism, something the Blazers aren’t short on, nothing that really adds to the them in the long run. Lopez is quite the opposite.