The up-and-down Detroit Pistons, who have won and lost alternating games for the past two weeks, hope to have leading scorer Jerami Grant back in the lineup Saturday night when they visit the Portland Trail Blazers.
Grant sat out Thursday’s 113-101 road win over the Sacramento Kings with a balky right knee. The ailment isn’t serious but Grant’s availability might not be clear until game time.
The 27-year-old Grant has been a breakout star for Detroit with a career-best 22.5 points per game. He averaged 12 points for the Denver Nuggets last season before signing with the Pistons as a free agent. He hoists an average of 17.3 shots a game this season after averaging 8.9 per outing last season.
Grant scored 29 points on 11-of-18 shooting in Tuesday’s 134-119 loss to the Nuggets in Denver before the knee acted up and kept him out Thursday.
Veteran guard Cory Joseph moved into a scoring role with Grant sidelined against the Kings and recorded a season-high 24 points and added seven assists as the Pistons improved to 2-1 on a five-game road trip.
Joseph knocked down 10 of 14 shots and was beaming afterward because Sacramento traded him to the Pistons at last month’s trading deadline.
“Obviously playing against my former team, you want to get the win,” said Joseph, who played 1 1/2 seasons with the Kings after stints with the San Antonio Spurs, Toronto Raptors and Indiana Pacers. “We had a complete game. We have a lot of young guys, a lot of young talent and they’re just soaking it up. It’s lovely to see. This an organization that is going in the right direction.”
It was the fourth win in seven games for the Pistons, who are showing signs of life despite remaining last in the Eastern Conference.
A surprise contributor in the frontcourt was Jahlil Okafor, who saw action for the first time in more than two months after undergoing knee surgery. He had a season-best 11 points in 15 minutes.
Okafor will be in the rotation again versus Portland if center Mason Plumlee (concussion) is unavailable for the second straight game.
Grant scored 30 points in Detroit’s meeting with the Trail Blazers on March 31, but Portland rolled up 73 second-half points to post a 124-101 road victory. Star guard Damian Lillard recorded 33 points and 10 assists and CJ McCollum added 24 points and six assists for the Trail Blazers in that one.
Portland has dropped three of four games since winning in Detroit with the trio of setbacks coming by an average of 18 points, including a 122-103 loss to the Utah Jazz in Salt Lake City on Thursday.
Lillard points to those games and other recent outings against playoff teams in identifying the Blazers’ recent shortcomings.
“When we play against the top-level teams, we don’t play well,” Lillard said after the loss to the Jazz. “We get put away. At Phoenix we got put away. Tonight, we got put away. At Denver we got put away. Milwaukee at home, got put away. Against the Clippers, got put away.
“It’s not like it’s a small sample size, it’s what happens. When we play against the better teams where you have to be consistent, you’ve got to be able to sustain a certain level of focus, you’ve got to be sharp.
“Physically, mentally, you’ve got to be present, you’ve got to be ready to go because these teams are top-level teams and those are the teams that we’re trying to be next to, we trying to be in that same boat of teams and when those games have come, we just haven’t shown that we’re that level of a team.”
Still, the Blazers are in the playoff race, which is more than can be said of the Pistons.
–Field Level Media