Trail Blazers-Pistons Preview
Portland's hottest stretch of the season fizzled under the extinguisher this week, but nothing seems to be cooling down Damian Lillard these days.
While the snubbed All-Star looks to continue his sizzling stretch, his Trail Blazers hope to avoid a third straight loss when they close a lengthy trip with Sunday night's visit to the Detroit Pistons.
Lillard's scoring ramped up at the tail end of Portland's 18-4 stretch from Jan. 10-March 1, and it nearly peaked when the Trail Blazers (33-30) suffered their second consecutive loss on Friday, 117-115 at Toronto, dropping them to 3-2 on a season-high six-game trip.
Lillard poured in 50 points, one shy of his career high set in a 137-105 win over league-leading Golden State on Feb. 19. He made 16 of 28 shots and 6 of 13 3-pointers, scoring 22 points in the fourth quarter alone.
His second 50-point outing in two weeks made Lillard the second Blazer ever with that many in a career, joining Geoff Petrie. He also became the first with three 40-point games in a season since Brandon Roy in 2009-10.
However, Lillard also joined Damon Stoudamire as the only Portland players with 50-point games in a loss.
Nobody's going to blame him.
After backcourt mate C.J. McCollum's 24 points, no other Blazer cracked double figures while the remaining nine who logged minutes shot 39.5 percent.
Lillard has carried a heavy scoring load, averaging 33.3 points in 11 games since Feb. 8. He scored at least 30 points in nine of those contests, a stretch that came shortly after he was left out of the All-Star game for the first time since his 2012-13 rookie season.
While Lillard remains a constant, Portland's defense has wavered this week. Opponents averaged 100.1 points in 21 previous games before Boston and the Raptors handed the Trail Blazers their seventh and eighth games allowing at least 115.
"It comes down to the defensive end for us," coach Terry Stotts said. "We've made good strides since mid-January because of our defense. ... Going forward, for us to make a playoff push, our defense has to be a little bit more consistent."
Detroit (31-31) is a top 10 defensive team, but offensive woes have led to consecutive defeats. The Pistons couldn't manage 90 points in losses of 97-81 at San Antonio on Wednesday and 102-89 at New York on Saturday.
Andre Drummond finished with 21 points and 16 rebounds against the Knicks, and Tobias Harris added 18 and eight. However, leading scorer Reggie Jackson made only 3 of 17 shots for eight points.
''We made one run in the entire game. I was not impressed,'' coach Stan Van Gundy said.
Jodie Meeks was available to play for the first time since breaking his right foot on Oct. 28, but he wasn't activated.
The Pistons, who are 18-11 at home, snapped the Blazers' five-game win streak in this series with a 120-103 victory on Nov. 8 in Portland.
Jackson scored a career-high 40 points and Drummond had 29 with 27 rebounds. Lillard finished with 26 points and 11 assists but committed five turnovers.