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Blazers down Pistons, 'over' connects

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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - It's unusual for the Trail Blazers to talk about being frustrated with a win.

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But Portland, which ended last season with a 13-game losing streak, is off to a 5-2 start and taking a hard look at its early success - with an eye on improvement.

After a 109-103 victory over Detroit on Monday, the Blazers were concerned by a late push by the Pistons that brought them within three points after Portland had built a 13-point, second-half lead.

''We can't relax and let a team get back like that,'' Nicolas Batum said.

Robin Lopez warned about being complacent: ''That's something we need to fend off. We need to be mentally tougher, mentally stronger. `'

But Damian Lillard, who rebounded from a rough shooting night in the Blazers' previous game to score 25 points, said this season Portland is better equipped to fight off late opponent runs.

''Last year some games we'd have an answer and get a big win and other times we'd let the game get away from us,'' Lillard said. ''Now we've got a different level of confidence in those situations and we expect to win those games.''

Brandon Jennings had 28 points and four rebounds for Detroit. Acquired by the Pistons in an offseason sign-and-trade with Milwaukee, Jennings came into the game the game needing one rebound for 1,000 in his career, and one point for 5,000.

Jennings' alley-oop layup from Rodney Stuckey pulled the Pistons within 107-103 with 1:28 left. After he stole the ball from Lillard and was fouled by Batum, Jennings drove to the basket but missed a layup and fouled Lillard on the rebound. Lillard made free throws for the final margin and Stuckey missed a 3-pointer on the other end.

''It's very difficult. We knew coming in they were a team that takes a lot of 3s,'' Jennings said. ''They were on fire tonight.''

The Blazers made 11 3-pointers, including five from Lillard. It was Portland's sixth straight victory at home over the Pistons.

The Trail Blazers were coming off a pair of victories over the Sacramento Kings in a home-and-away back-to-back. Lillard, last season's NBA Rookie of the Year, was 1 of 15 from the floor with four points in the Blazers' 96-85 victory on Saturday night.

''When players like that have a bad game you know they rarely have two consecutive bad games,'' Pistons coach Maurice Cheeks said. ''He's a confident player and shooter and tonight he showed that.''

Portland was one of just five teams in the NBA with two players averaging more than 20 points. LaMarcus Aldridge was averaging 23.3 points and Lillard was averaging 20.5 heading into the game.

Aldridge finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds against Detroit. His 15-footer that put the Blazers out in front 20-11 in the first quarter.

Portland held onto the lead through the second, going up 38-30 on Dorell Wright's layup. Detroit came back with a 13-4 run capped by Stuckey's 3-pointer to pull ahead 43-42.

Greg Monroe's jumper knotted the score at 51 but Lillard answered with a 3-pointer and the Blazers went on to lead 58-55 at the half.

Aldridge made an acrobatic layup and Joel Freeland added a basket to give the Blazers a 77-70 lead late in the third quarter. Andre Drummond's alley-oop dunk narrowed it to 83-80 for the Pistons to open the fourth quarter.

Lopez's slam off Batum's no-look pass with 4:29 left gave the Blazers their biggest lead of the game at 104-92. Lopez, acquired by the Blazers in a three-team trade this summer from New Orleans, finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds.

Afterward, Aldridge joked: ''His mom is here. She's staying the rest of the season.''

Charlie Villanueva made his season debut for the Pistons after returning from a shoulder injury and had two points. Drummond had 16 points and 16 rebounds.

Detroit was coming off a 119-110 loss to Oklahoma City on Friday night. Jennings had his first double-double with the Pistons with 22 points and 11 assists against the Thunder.

Notes: Cheeks was coach of the Blazers for three-plus seasons from 2001-05. ... Rasheed Wallace, who played for the Blazers from 1996-2004, is an assistant on Cheeks' staff. ... The Blazers and the Pistons split their series last season, with each team winning at home. ... The Blazers have made at least eight 3-pointers in all of their games this season, the team's longest streak ever. ... Aldridge's 11th rebound tonight was the 4,000th of his career.

AP NEWS
The Associated Press News Service

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The Associated Press
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