Dear Mike Barrett and Mike Rice. Please stop calling Jeff Pendergraph "snake." We get it, he owns snakes, but when you call him that I think of Kurt Russell in an eye patch, or Snake from the Simpsons. That is all. You can go back to being outraged by calls against the Blazers now.
Running on fumes and with an empty bench of rolling tumbleweeds, the Blazers limped into Detroit on the tail end of a rough four game road swing. But if the newly Bayless-less (Baylessless?) Blazers were winded from the disappointing overtime loss in Boston, they didn't show it. Well, to be fair, they didn't show it until the third quarter. In the first half the Blazers looked primed to roll over a listless Pistons lineup. Dual point guards Andre Miller and Steve Blake entered halftime with a combined 17 assists and zero turnovers. The Blazers hit the break with a 14 point lead, which was their largest advantage at the half of any road game this season.
What could go wrong? Everything.
First, it was the points. The Pistons stormed out of the gate in the third and eliminated Portland's lead in nine quick minutes. Then came the fists. Blake and Charlie Villanueva had a barking session, and a few plays later Villanueva lazily wrapped up Rudy Fernandez and introduced him to the hardwood. Players were pushed, benches nearly emptied, and Juwan Howard and Villanueva split technicals fouls, while Villanueva picked up a flagrant one as well. After that, the Pistons let loose into Rudy's injured back like a fighter exposing his opponent's glass jaw. Of course, Rudy utilized the European vertical tumble (read: flop), and picked up enough trips to the charity stripe—eight shots in 97 seconds—to push the Blazers back into the lead before the final quarter.
The two teams traded baskets, and the leads, in the fourth, although Portland's attempts were mostly distant jumpers, while Detroit had little difficulty getting to the rim. Miller drains a pair of free-throws at 24.6 left, and LaMarcus Aldridge (oftentimes a ghost in the final period) came up with an excellent tip on defensive which lead to a pair of foul shots from Martell Webster. A Pistons lead was quickly erased in a matter of seconds. Detroit had their chance to tie—multiple chances, actually—but they failed to convert as the clock expired.
Early in the game Webster got mighty familiar with the bottom of the net, unleashing a three point bombardment (six on the night), which slowed as the game progressed, yet he still finished with a career high of 28 points. Plus, for the second consecutive night, Webster came through in the clutch from the line. Both Miller and Blake had double digits in assists (13 and 10, respectively), and Blake had his first double-double of the year. It wasn't the prettiest of wins, but considering the dire physical state the team is in, Portland will take it.