2014 Winter Games News
|Lillard’s shot lifts Blazers over Pistons in OT|
|Written by NOAH TRISTER AP Sports Writer|
|Monday, 16 December 2013 07:29|
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — Damian Lillard came spinning down the lane at the end of overtime and was blanketed by Rodney Stuckey, leaving Portland’s guard had no choice but to fade to his right for a last-ditch shot.
The ball dropped right through the basket, giving the Blazers a victory over the Detroit Pistons on Sunday night that seemed unlikely until the final minutes.
“Stuckey did a great job, but they told me that I was going to have to make a double move to get anything off,” Lillard said. “He blocked my first move, and I knew he wouldn’t let me get to the basket, so I just spun off my other shoulder and put up a fadeaway. It felt good when I let it go, but a lot of shots felt good tonight and didn’t go in.”
That one did — with one tenth of a second left — to lift the Trail Blazers to a 111-109 victory over the Pistons. Lillard scored eight of his 23 points in overtime.
Detroit led by 13 early in the fourth quarter, but the Pistons looked out of sorts offensively down the stretch. Josh Smith scored 31 points, his most since signing with Detroit as a free agent in the offseason, but the chance for a big home victory against one of the league’s most impressive teams slipped away.
“If this doesn’t stink, I don’t know what does,” Smith said. “When I was in Atlanta and we were young and we were in a lot of ballgames, but late down the stretch we couldn’t figure it out — and then later we turned the corner.”
LaMarcus Aldridge scored 27 points for Portland. Moments before Lillard’s winner, Stuckey tied the game for Detroit with a shot from near the free throw line.
Portland, which made 21 shots from 3-point range in Saturday’s rout of Philadelphia, went 7 of 26 on Sunday.
“That wasn’t looking good for most of the second half,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. “But we got some big shots from Wesley Matthews and the defense really stepped up.”
Matthews scored 14 points and tied the game with 30.8 seconds remaining in regulation when he made two free throws. Detroit had the ball with 1.1 seconds left, but Kyle Singler’s inbounds pass was stolen, sending the game to overtime.
It looked like it might go to a second overtime, but Lillard was able to create a shot for himself even when his path to the basket was blocked.
“It was the same play we had run three or four times in a row,” Stotts said. “We spread the floor with shooters, gave Damian a ball screen and let him make a play.”
The Blazers led by 11 early in the second quarter, but Detroit rallied behind Smith and fellow big men Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond to take a 51-50 lead into halftime.
Smith is shooting 26 percent from 3-point range this season, and the presence of Monroe and Drummond has seemed only to encourage him to shoot more from the perimeter. But he attempted only two 3s on Sunday, and the Blazers couldn’t handle him in the post for most of the night.
Smith’s old-fashioned three-point play made it 75-66 in the third, and Detroit led 84-73 heading into the final period.
“For the most part, we did a very good job guarding pick-and-rolls,” Pistons coach Maurice Cheeks said. “We pretty much took them out of 3-point shooting, which is what we talked about before the game. Aldridge, we knew he could be a handful down low.”
Detroit out-scored Portland 68-42 in the paint, but the Blazers held the Pistons to 15 points in the fourth quarter and slowly chipped away at the lead.
Nicolas Batum scored 18 points for the Blazers, including a 3-pointer with 6:48 remaining that cut the Detroit lead to four. It was tight the rest of the way after that in a matchup of two of the league’s best offensive rebounding teams.
Detroit finished with 18 offensive rebounds, but Portland had 15.
“I think those opportunities had been there all night, but we didn’t start taking advantage of them until things got drastic,” Portland center Robin Lopez said. “I’m really impressed with what we can do defensively when we pick it up. We haven’t peaked, because we still wait until the motivation is there, but when we needed it, we stepped up.”
NOTES: The Blazers missed their first six 3-point attempts. ... Smith shot 13 of 17 from the field. Drummond had 13 points and 14 rebounds.
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