After earning a significant win in their second game without Wesley Matthews, the Portland Trail Blazers will try to keep rolling by adding to the Detroit Pistons’ woes.
The Blazers will try for their seventh victory in eight games while sending the Pistons to a ninth consecutive defeat Friday night (9:30 p.m. pregame, 10 p.m. tip-off on FOX Sports Detroit).
Portland (42-20) lost Matthews to a season-ending Achilles injury last Thursday and fell 121-113 at lowly Minnesota two days later in its initial game without him. The Blazers bounced back with a 105-100 win over visiting Houston on Wednesday and clinched the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Rockets, one of the top four teams in the Western Conference along with Portland.
With an eight-game cushion in the Northwest Division, the Blazers are in fine position for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs but face a battle for positioning near the top of the conference.
"We’ve got 20 games left and it could be a tight race down the stretch," said guard Arron Afflalo, who shot 2 of 13 and scored nine points in his second start in place of Matthews. "We’ll continue to fight to try to move up the rankings. So tonight was an important victory."
Portland will try to bolster its chances for a better seed with a fifth consecutive win over Detroit (23-41) and seventh in a row in the series at home. The Blazers open a five-game trip that begins Sunday against Atlantic Division-leading Toronto.
"I think we’re just trying to find our rhythm right now," forward LaMarcus Aldridge said. "It’s coming to the home stretch and it’s the best time to be playing great. I think right now guys are locked in."
Portland dealt Detroit the last of its 13 consecutive defeats Dec. 9 and held the Pistons to their second-worst shooting performance this season at 35.1 percent in that 98-86 victory.
Five of Detroit’s eight consecutive losses have come on the road, though the club was competitive against league-leading Golden State on Wednesday until the Warriors pulled away in the fourth quarter of their 105-98 victory.
Andre Drummond had a career-high 27 rebounds – 17 offensive – and 22 points, but the Pistons committed eight of their 15 turnovers in the final period.
"I thought our guys gave a great effort tonight. We just didn’t execute and take care of the ball down the stretch," coach Stan Van Gundy said.
The Pistons have lost six in a row and 10 of 11 on the road. One more defeat will clinch their seventh consecutive losing season and give them their longest such run since a stretch of 14 that began with their final season in Fort Wayne, Indiana in 1956-57.