Portland concluded March with four straight overs amidst some recent changes in the players that Terry Stotts has been able to send on the court. C.J. McCollum and Josef Nurcic are healthy again after missing time with injuries. Nurcic is still on a minutes restriction but McCollum seems at full strength again as he was averaging 20.3 points-per-game and 4.1 assists-per-game since his return before scoring 24 points and adding six assists in the Blazers’ 124-101 to end the month on Wednesday. The Trail Blazers added Norman Powell last week in a trade deadline deal with Toronto. The guard is averaging 16.3 points-per-game in his first three games with his new team.
Stotts is often playing Powell alongside McCollum and Damian Lillard in a super-charged three-guard lineup. However, what that combination offers Stotts in scoring could come at a cost on the other end of the court. Small-ball lineups can suffer on defense. Portland has won four in a row, and seven of their last nine, after their win in Detroit on Wednesday. Playing a Pistons’ team was averaging only 103.6 points-per-game may not have offered much of a challenge to their play on defense. However, their previous game against Toronto may have been a canary in the coal mine regarding the play of their defense in the coming weeks.
The Blazers allowed 74 points in the first half of that game on Sunday to the Raptors. Portland went on to win by a 122-117 score. Going into their game with the Pistons on Wednesday, the Blazers had allowed their last five opponents to make 49.9% of their shots which resulted in 118.4 points-per-game.
Portland’s 124-101 victory against Detroit finished above a total that closed in the 219 range. Some bettors may see the Blazers’ holding the Pistons to only 101 points as a sign of improving defense. The value on Portland overs may continue for another few weeks before the market catches up.
Good luck - TDG.