|Stotts, Casey renew friendly rivalry as Blazers greet Pistons|
Terry Stotts and Dwane Casey are about as familiar with each other as any head coaching pair in the NBA.
Stotts and Casey were assistant coaches together for eight years -- four apiece in Seattle (1994-98) and Dallas (2008-12), winning an NBA championship with the Mavericks in 2011. So there is always a little bit extra in the tank when they meet up as head coaches, with the latest renewal of their rivalry Saturday night in Portland when Stotts' Trail Blazers play host to Casey's Detroit Pistons.
"Dwane is a very good coach and a really good guy," Stotts said. "He relates well to players. He is very disciplined, with an old-school mentality, and he is passionate about the game."
In his first season with Detroit after serving seven years as head coach with Toronto, Casey has the Pistons 37-34 and in sixth place in the Eastern Conference. Portland is the third stop on a grueling five-game road trip that includes visits to Golden State on Sunday and Denver on Tuesday.
After falling seven games below .500 in early February, the Pistons have turned things around, going 8-3 in the month of March. They held the Phoenix Suns to 38 second-half points in a 118-98 road victory Thursday night.
"From here on out, defense is what we have to concentrate on and get better at," Casey said. "We locked in and flipped the switch in the second half (against the Suns); we got it done."
The Pistons have one of the best front lines in the NBA, led by power forward Blake Griffin (24.6 points, 7.6 rebounds, 5.4 assists per game) and center Andre Drummond. Drummond has 35 games this season with at least 15 points and 15 rebounds, bettering the franchise record previously held by Hall of Famer Bob Lanier, who had 32 such games in 1972-73.
"Drummond is having a really good year, and so is Blake, who is having one of his best seasons," Stotts said. "A lot of their offense goes through him. Having a healthy (point guard) Reggie Jackson all year has helped them.
"They've changed their identity. Dwane has done a good job of establishing a style of play. They're shooting a lot more threes. Their offense has been really good of late. They're competing at a high level as the playoffs get closer. They're definitely a playoff team."
So are the Trail Blazers (44-27), who are currently in fourth place in the West. They have won five of their last six games and are 27-9 on their homecourt this season. With shooting guard CJ McCollum having missed the past two games with a knee injury, reserve Seth Curry has seen increased playing time. In a 126-118 win over Dallas on Wednesday, Curry scored 20 points on 8-for-16 shooting -- including 4 of 7 from 3-point range -- in 28 minutes off the bench.
"Seth has been playing really well, especially with CJ being out and knowing I'm going to get a lot of (defensive) attention," Portland point guard Damian Lillard said. "(Curry) has been available to handle the ball, and he's making shots. It's a different load for him -- playing longer stretches, under more duress -- but he has really helped our team, and made it easier for me as well."
The Pistons have won five of the last six meetings between the teams.
--Field Level Media