Portland blazed past Detroit on Sunday, dropping the Pistons to 6-6 since the acquisition of point guard Allen Iverson. While the final count was 96-85, Portland held control for most of the contest as it outscored the Pistons 25-13 in the first quarter.
The Detroit reserves helped cut the lead to 45-42 late in the second quarter, but the Blazers scored the last five points of the half to enter the locker room with an eight-point lead at 50-42.
The third quarter saw the teams trade basket for basket as Rip Hamilton knocked down a jumper at the end of the period to cut the lead to six at 70-64. The Blazers then went on to control the fourth quarter, outscoring the Pistons 26-21 as LaMarcus Aldridge went on a scoring run to help seal the deal in a 96-85 victory. He finished with 27 points, and is clearly over his early-season struggles.
Portland has won four straight and is now 11-3 since its 1-3 start to the season, pushing its overall record to 12-6, good for a share of first place in the Northwest Division. Better yet, by beating the Pistons in Detroit, Portland got a much needed road win against a good team. The only other strong club the Blazers have beaten on the road this season is Orlando. If the Blazers can’t beat any decent Western teams on the road, this is going to be a problem come playoff time.
Detroit has fallen to 10-6, putting it in second place in the Central Division.
Rudy Fernandez, SG: The Spaniard rookie has shown he can hit the three. In fact, he has hit a three in every contest this year, making him just the third rookie in the last 12 NBA seasons to connect from downtown in 18 straight games. While Sunday wasn’t his best performance by a longshot as he went only 1-for-4 from the field, he is getting consistent playing time and shooting an effective 43 per cent from downtown. Fernandez’s 11.6 points per game and nearly 95 per cent free throw clip make him a valuable commodity so if he is not starting yet, it can’t hurt to put him with his 20 minutes per game and effective shooting percentage. In the upcoming week, keep your eye on his tender ankle, which he hurt Friday night, although he remained in the game. He’s winding up on the waiver wire in some leagues, but I think Fernandez still has plenty of value — just ride out his current slump if you can.
Nicholas Batum, SF: Another Portland rookie import, this time from France, Batum earned the start on Sunday and put up decent numbers, chipping in seven points, seven rebounds, four assists and a block. This 19-year-old (he’ll be 20 in a couple of weeks) has been earning more playing time of late, capped by a 15-point performance against Miami on Wednesday. If he is available in your deep league, it can’t hurt taking a look at him as the Blazers continue to experiment with their influx of young players. Batum has the talent, but might take sometime to develop. If he’s going to continue to get 30+ minutes like he did Sunday afternoon, however, that development may accelerate.
Rodney Stuckey, PG: The second-year guard out of Eastern Washington University, so highly touted coming into the season, has started to turn in more effective efforts recently, some might say even more than Iverson at this point. Sunday was no different, as he poured in 15 points and added six rebounds, five assists, a steal and a block in 26 minutes. Despite the trade for Iverson, Stuckey is the first man off the bench and is contributing positive numbers, although I’d like to see his accuracy improve. AI’s body typically takes a beating through the year so there is the potential of Stuckey getting enough minutes throughout the season and if that is the case you can feel confident in starting him on your squad as he is showing the ability to score and dish out assists. Many gave up on him after a sluggish start, but if you stuck with Stuckey, you’re being rewarded now.
Kwame Brown, C: Brown got the start on Sunday and showed why he has been one of the biggest busts of the last 10 years. In 20 minutes he scored just six points and only hauled down two rebounds, although he did record a block for the second straight game. As soon as Antonio McDyess rejoins the Pistons (which he’s already said he’ll do), don’t expect Brown to get much playing time as he has been ineffective in his role thus far with the Pistons, averaging 4.1 points and only 3.6 rebounds. Once upon a time, he did some decent work on the offensive glass for the Wizards, but of course he was playing twice as much as he is now. Do not start him! In fact, unless you’re in one of those super jumbo leagues (say, 25 teams or more) do not even own him.
What are the Pistons doing on Saturday nights, by the way? They’ve lost four straight Sunday games. On any other day, they’re 10-2, but on Sundays they are getting bitch-slapped by an average of 17 points. Are they all on the ‘Sheed schedule?
Portland’s starting five outscored Detroit’s starters 74-52, while the Pistons’ bench outgunned the Blazer bench by 11. Parallel universe? Wasn’t the bench the Achilles’ Heel for Detroit for the past several years?
Brandon Roy had a rather pedestrian line (for him), especially since he went nuts Friday with 25 points and a season-high 10 assists. Roy’s shooting is much better from beyond the arc this season (38 per cent) and that’s helped him up his scoring, but his owners have to be a bit upset that his steals, assists and rebounds have all slipped.
It looks like Greg Oden is finally getting acclimated to the NBA. He recorded his second double-double in the past three games, pulling down a career-best 13 rebounds while also swatting a trio of balls and stealing one. Better yet, he got to play 30 minutes or more for just the second time, as coach Nate McMillan slowly loosens the reins.
Hamilton wound up with 18 points. Just another day at the office, right? Maybe not — this was his best point total in two weeks, if you can believe that. Rip’s shot just isn’t falling this season, but if you’re seeking a sign that he’s coming out of it, he’s hit exactly half of his shots over the last three games. Buy-low candidate?
Iverson is in a serious funk in Motown. He drained a mere 2-of-9 shots for nine points — the second time in his last four games he failed to reach double digits. In fact, Iverson hasn’t topped 17 points since November 19. It’s pretty obvious he won’t be delivering late-first/early-second round value as long as he’s a Piston.
Could it be time to take another look at Amir Johnson, also a fantasy darling heading into the season? In 23 minutes off the bench Sunday, he sunk 4-of-5 for eight points and added eight boards. If he can consistently get around 25 minutes, he’s worth owning for those blocks and boards.
Arron Afflalo has been seeing more action off the bench recently, and he had enjoyed back-to-back strong games until throwing up a stinker Sunday (0-for-2, two points in 20 minutes). Keep him on your radar, and if his PT continues to rise, Afflalo could be a sleeper, but for now, leave him where he is — on your waiver wire.
Steve Blake wasn’t at his best Sunday, managing just one three pointer and 10 points, but he did drop seven dimes and pull down a couple of boards in a hefty 36 minutes. Clearly, the job remains his, despite occasional flashes of brilliance from Sergio Rodriguez. Although he only made one trip to the charity stripe Sunday, Blake is getting to the line a bit more this year and has been absolutely lights out (96 per cent). In fact, the dude hasn’t missed a FT in three weeks. Still, he’s a marginal fantasy player, not picking up enough assists or scoring enough to be truly useful, but maintaining some value because of his 3-point shooting.
Anyone notice that Tayshaun Prince was stapled to the bench for much of the game? He played a mere 22 minutes — the first time all season that he hadn’t gotten at least 30 minutes, and Detroit coach Michael Curry wasn’t shy about the reason why: “He just wasn’t playing well.” Overall, however, Prince has been strong, averaging career highs with 15.1 PPG and 6.5 RPG.