AUBURN HILLS – While the Detroit Pistons have taken care of business against their own conference, they’ve had an especially hard time against the West.
Things aren’t about to get any easier with the Portland Trail Blazers coming to town.
Detroit looks to slow down the West-leading Trail Blazers, who try to stay unbeaten against the East when these teams meet for the second time Sunday.
The Pistons (11-13) had dropped three straight by an average of 15.7 points before bouncing back to beat Brooklyn 103-99 on Friday. Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe combined for 44 points and 24 rebounds as Detroit outscored the Nets 60-38 in the paint.
“It’s just a learning experience being able to learn how to close out games when we have big leads,” said Josh Smith, whose team nearly blew a 21-point lead. “We have to learn to execute that much harder and not act kind of lackadaisical whenever we feel like we have the game won.”
The Pistons have allowed just 94.8 points per game in going 10-5 against Eastern Conference foes. Detroit, though, has surrendered 110.4 while losing eight of nine against the West, with its lone win coming 97-90 at last-place Sacramento last month.
The Pistons lost 109-103 in Portland on Nov. 11 despite 28 points from Brandon Jennings. Damian Lillard scored 25 that night as the Blazers improved to 8-2 in their last 10 in the series.
Lillard (16) was one of eight players to score in double figures Saturday as Portland opened a four-game trip with a 139-105 rout of Philadelphia. The Blazers, who matched their most points since 1997, shot a season-high 55.9 percent and set a franchise-record with 21 3-pointers.
Portland also held a 46-33 edge on the glass in improving to 9-0 against the East.
“Everyone is taking shots with confidence,” said Dorell Wright, who went 5 of 5 from beyond the arc in 11 minutes off the bench. “It doesn’t surprise me when guys are making shots like that because we have a lot of great shooters.”
The Blazers recorded 41 assists, their most since 1990. Portland is 12-0 when posting at least 23 assists.
“It shows how well we’re moving the ball right now,” Lillard told the NBA’s official site.
LaMarcus Aldridge, who scored 20 to go along with 16 boards, is averaging 23.1 points in 14 career matchups against the Pistons, by far his highest mark against any opponent. The eighth-year forward leads the team with 23.4 per game, well above his career mark of 18.5
Aldridge, though, was held to 18 points in last month’s win while going up against Detroit’s massive frontcourt. Drummond, meanwhile, had 16 points on 8-of-9 shooting and 16 boards.
A career 38.5 percent free-throw shooter, Drummond went 6 of 8 from the foul line against the Nets. The Pistons are 8-3 when he makes at least one free throw compared to 3-10 when he doesn’t.
“I work hard at it every day, so the results are going to show up sooner rather than later,” he said.
The Pistons, averaging an NBA-best 51.3 points in the paint, visit NBA-leading Indiana after this game.
“I just know we’re playing two great basketball teams and our first obstacle is Portland,” coach Maurice Cheeks told the team’s official website. “And then we’ll see where we go after that.”
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