CJ McCollum, Blazers look to stay hot against Pistons


The Portland Trail Blazers and Detroit Pistons have something in common heading into their matchup on Wednesday. Both teams are coming off victories over the Toronto Raptors.

Portland defeated the Raptors 122-117 on Sunday, increasing its winning streak to three games. Detroit began a four-game homestand by romping past Toronto 118-104 on Monday.

The Blazers have gone 10-4 in March entering their final game of the month. They’ll be wrapping up a four-game road trip on Wednesday.

Portland’s strong showing this month has been fueled by the return of two starters from injury and a key addition at the trade deadline.

Guard CJ McCollum is averaging 20.3 points and 4.1 assists since recovering from a foot injury. Center Jusuf Nurkic is averaging 9.0 points and 6.0 rebounds in two games on a minutes restriction since recovering from a broken wrist.

Swingman Norman Powell, acquired from Toronto on Thursday’s trade deadline, has averaged 17.5 points in his first two games with his new team.

Portland allowed 74 first-half points to the Raptors. The game turned around in the third quarter, when the Blazers limited them to 10 points.

“I was really proud of our defense in the third quarter,” Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts said. “I liked our activity, I like our aggressiveness, we rebounded the ball; they didn’t get a lot of second shots; we limited their transition. The things we talked about at halftime were those type of plays that made the difference in the third quarter.”

Portland shot 47.4 percent from the field but less than 30 percent from the 3-point line. The dynamic backcourt of McCollum and Damian Lillard shot a combined 16-for-39, but the Blazers survived by ratcheting up their defensive intensity.

“We just committed to that end of the floor,” Lillard said. “It wasn’t a special effort on offense, it was what we did defensively.”

This will be the first of two meetings this season between Portland and Detroit, but the Pistons are quite familiar with Powell. He scored 36 points against them on March 3 and a career-high 43 on March 17, but Detroit won both games.

The Pistons completed their three-game series sweep of the Raptors on Monday by shooting 50.7 percent from the field and racing to a 16-point halftime lead. Detroit had lost its last four games.

Guard Hamidou Diallo, playing in his second game since being acquired from Oklahoma City, provided the biggest spark. He had 19 points and 10 rebounds off the bench.

“Once he came in, the game changed,” coach Dwane Casey said. “He kind of lit a fire under everybody. The game sped up and the rest was history.”

Diallo, who becomes a restricted free agent after this season, will get plenty of chances to pump up his value with the last-place club. He averaged 14 points in two games against the Blazers before the trade.

“As of right now, just trying to fit in,” he said. “Anything coach Casey asks of me to do on the offensive or defensive end, just try to fit in and buy into what’s going on here first. I feel like on the defensive end, taking on the challenge every night of taking on the best player. Just go out there and put your head down and live up to your expectations.”

–Field Level Media