Blazers cling to playoff hopes, welcome struggling Pistons

Their postseason lives may be on a resuscitator, but that won't stop the Portland Trail Blazers from pressing on.

Portland, which is 3 1/2 games off the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, will close out a three-game homestand Saturday night versus the struggling Detroit Pistons. Now would not be the time for the Blazers to lay an egg against a Pistons team that has dropped seven straight.

The Blazers trail the Los Angeles Lakers for that final postseason berth, but the Utah Jazz and Dallas Mavericks also stand between them and the playoffs.

The Blazers have won four of seven games and ended a two-game losing streak with Thursday's easy 105-90 victory over a depleted New York Knicks team that played without Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler and Amare Stoudemire. Blazers rookie Damian Lillard led the way with 26 points and 10 assists, while LaMarcus Aldridge recorded 22 points and 10 rebounds.

Nicolas Batum had 16 points and J.J. Hickson finished with 12 and a game-high 16 rebounds for the Trail Blazers, who shot 51.3 percent for the game and defended the perimeter well, holding New York to 7-of-25 shooting from 3-point territory.

"Every game is very important right now," Aldridge said.

Portland outscored the Knicks, 56-32, in the middle quarters in ran its record in the Rose City to 21-11. After entertaining the Pistons, Portland, which is 4-2 in its last six home games, will embark on a five-game road trip through Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Chicago, Atlanta and Oklahoma City.

Lillard leads all rookies in scoring (19.1 ppg) and assists (6.5 apg), and Hickson registered his 36th double-double of the season. Hickson leads the Blazers with 10.7 rebounds and has nine double-doubles since Feb. 19 (11 games).

Detroit has dropped seven in a row and 10 of its last 11 games, including Wednesday's 105-97 setback at Golden State.

The Pistons, who will wrap up a four-game western trek (0-3) Saturday, were paced by Rodney Stuckey's 22 points and Kyle Singler added 17. Greg Monroe netted 13 points, but shot just 4-of-16 from the field.

"Shooting 4-for-16 can't happen for me. It's not like I'm shooting a lot of jump shots or chucking up threes. I have to do a better job than that," said Monroe.

For how poorly the Pistons have played recently, they are still first in the Eastern Conference and fourth in the NBA in points in the paint per game with 45.7. Unfortunately, the Pistons have lost at least six straight three times this season and opened the 2012-13 campaign with a season-worst eight losses in a row.

Detroit, which owns an 8-24 record away from The Palace, is playing six of seven games on the road and defeated Portland, 108-101, back on Nov. 26 this season in Auburn Hills. Brandon Knight scored 26 points and Monroe compiled 20 with 10 rebounds to help Detroit post its second straight win in this series since losing six in a row.

The Pistons have lost four straight road meetings with Portland.