Pistons flat in losing ninth straight

Terry Foster
The Detroit News

Portland, Ore. — The Pistons will finish a grueling and unproductive four-games-in-five nights western road swing in Utah Saturday night in search of anything positive and productive to take home.

They enter the game winless on the trip and with questions that need to be answered. They also enter with a nine-game losing streak after getting dusted 118-99 by the Portland Trail Blazers, their worst loss on the trip.

The game turned into a glorified scrimmage for the Blazers (43-20) and a bloodbath for the Pistons.

But there were questions that came out of this game. Why did the Pistons abandon the ground-and-pound offense initiated by point guard Reggie Jackson and forward Greg Monroe? The Moose had 15 points on 10 shots in the first half and just four points and four shots in the second.

"I always go with something that is working," Monroe said. "Stan (Van Gundy) obviously saw something differently. I trust what he does. I just run what everybody else calls. I can't be out there running my own stuff. That is what they called and we ran it."

Jackson played one of his strongest floor games. He finished with 11 points and 10 assists and found Andre Drummond (16 points and 17 rebounds) and Monroe inside in the first half. The Pistons got away from it in the second half although, they scored 32 points in the third quarter.

But they could not stop the Blazers, who shot 57.5 percent from the field and moved the ball around like pinball wizards. But Jackson said it was not his call to stop feeding it to Monroe. It was a coach's decision.

"The coach makes the calls," Jackson said. "Greg was hot. I am not sure what happened after that. He definitely was abusing his guy all night. He stopped him sometimes but not enough to take the ball out of his hands. He made plays for us, made the defense collapse and he was a problem tonight. He is one of the best post scorers in the league and we have to continue to keep him in the offense."

It is doubtful Monroe could have won this game by himself. The Trail Blazers worked the ball around the perimeter and made open shots and difficult ones. Damien Lillard often blew by Jackson and finished with 28 points and nine assists.

He was dangerous in the lane and peppered the Pistons for five 3-point baskets. LaMarcus Aldridge hit tough mid-range jumpers, often with Monroe in his face, and finished with 22 points and seven rebounds. Aldridge and Lillard are always dangerous. But what sank the Pistons were bench players Chris Kaman, who had 14 points and six rebounds, and Meyers Leonard, who chipped in 15 points.

"I think we could have been better (defensively)," Jackson said. "When the defense gives you something you have to take advantage of it and they did so. We wanted to wrap them up but the best way to stop a train is to stop it before it gets moving."

This train kept a rolling all night long, and it allowed the Trail Blazers to rest starters before they begin a long, five-game trip.

The Pistons committed just six turnovers, which was one of their few bright spots.

It was a pretty ho-hum game but there was some excitement with 1:05 remaining when reserves Shawne Williams of the Pistons and Joel Freeland of the Blazers got into an argument. Earlier Williams and Leonard had lightly bumped shoulders and had words.

Freeland confronted Williams and they jawed at one another. Williams appeared to bump heads with Freeland and Freeland bumped him with his head. Both were ejected.

Someone asked Van Gundy if it showed that his players still care. He shrugged it off.

"I don't care," he said. "The thing that makes me think guys care is watching them play defense. I don't really care about fighting or not fighting or anything else. I'm not mad at him, but so what?"