Tuesday, February 20, 2024

NBA Preview: Detroit Pistons (7-43) at Portland Trail Blazers (15-35)

The Portland Trail Blazers were showing signs of improvement until running into the defending champion Denver Nuggets for back-to-back games.

The Trail Blazers will aim to bounce back from those games — road setbacks — when they open a seven-game homestand Thursday night against the Detroit Pistons.

Portland went 5-4 during the final nine games of January, a stretch that included consecutive victories over the Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks.

The new month began in Denver, and the Trail Blazers lost 120-108 on Friday and 112-103 on Sunday. Portland rookie Scoot Henderson scored 30 points in the first matchup, and Deandre Ayton had 27 in the rematch.

Henderson, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2023 draft, turned 20 on Saturday, one day after recording his second 30-point effort of the season.

Portland coach Chauncey Billups marked the occasion by sending Henderson a motivational text.

Henderson sustained a bruised left foot on Sunday and is listed as questionable for Thursday’s game.

Portland guard Malcolm Brogdon (knee) will return after missing Sunday’s game. Forward Jerami Grant (back) is probable and expected back after a two-game absence.

Anfernee Simons averaged 27.5 points in the two games against Denver and has at least 24 points in three straight games.

Simons said he was encouraged with Sunday’s result despite Portland blowing a 14-point, second-quarter lead.

Detroit arrives in Portland on a high note after a 133-120 win over the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night in the opener of a six-game trip. It was just the Pistons’ seventh victory in 50 games this season, but three of the wins have come over the past seven games.

It also improved the Pistons’ road record to 3-20.

Second-year guard Jaden Ivey scored a career-best 37 points and added seven assists and six rebounds.

Alec Burks made five 3-pointers and scored 25 points off the bench, and Jalen Duren contributed 20 points, 15 rebounds and six assists.

The Pistons got a head start on Thursday’s trade deadline by making two deals on Wednesday.

Detroit sent point guard Monte Morris to the Minnesota Timberwolves for guards Shake Milton and Troy Brown Jr., and a 2030 second-round draft pick.

The Pistons also acquired forward Simone Fontecchio from the Utah Jazz for forward Kevin Knox, a 2024 second-round pick, and the rights to Italian forward Gabriele Procida, a second-round pick in the 2022 draft.

Short-handed Detroit used just nine players during Wednesday’s game. In addition to the trades, forwards Cade Cunningham (knee) and Bojan Bogdanovic (calf) sat out. Both players could be back Thursday.

Sports Gaming Monitor

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