In a high-flying, knock em down barnburner, the Portland Trail Blazers eeked past the Memphis Grizzlies 86 to 66 at the Rose Garden.
The Memphis Grizzlies displayed offensive efficiency from the opening tip, refusing to use either free throws (0 of 0) or three pointers (0 of 4) during the first half to help their cause. It was a bold gambit by sure-fire future first ballot Hall of Fame coach Lionel Hollins, but one that paid major dividends to the tune of 36 points at the break. Add in 11 quality rebounds and 8 assists in the first half, and the entire Grizzlies roster in 24 minutes combined to produce a slightly better-than-average game for LeBron James.
Undaunted by the Grizzlies' firepower, the Blazers did something they haven't done all year, turning to Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge for the bulk of their scoring. Roy (21 / 8 / 4) and Aldridge (18 / 7 / 2) proved they were up to the challenge, carrying the Blazers to the nailbiting victory.
The Grizzlies would not go down without a fight: their sterling 11 point third quarter effort rivaled all but the best opposing team performances the Rose Garden court has seen this year. Hitting an astonishing 4 of 18 shots in the period, the nets on the Grizzlies basket actually appeared to light on fire briefly halfway through the quarter. Mike Conley was the likely fire-starting culprit: his perfect 0 for 8 from the field shooting had the Rose Garden faithful salivating in their seats at the sight of Steve Blake's future replacement.
In the end, one should give credit to the Blazers' team defense, as Roy, Aldridge, Outlaw, Oden and Blake combined late in the third quarter to prevent Hamed Haddadi from reaching a potential triple double. Haddadi finished with 7 points, 5 rebounds and 1 assist.
The night's on-court action was matched only by Hollins' postgame press conference, during which he appeared to fall asleep while standing up in between questions on multiple occasions.
The reporters present did not seem to notice, possibly because they were also asleep.
Random Game Notes
- Tonight's game is Exhibit A1 why you should appreciate a game like last Monday night's tilt against the Sixers, despite the loss.
- LaMarcus continues beast mode. Granted, Memphis had no one to guard him but he put in work and filled up the box in the 40 minutes he played. I have heard the following words a number of times from various people in the last week: "I'm starting to think LaMarcus is my favorite player on the Blazers." Given the general consensus about LaMarcus as recently as December, it's crazy to hear that. It's also awesome.
- Before the game, I had the pleasure of listening to Dwight Jaynes and Damon Stoudamire swap barbs courtside. Damon was just punchline after punchline: his takes on everything from omelettes to Penny Hardaway were one of the pregame highlights of the season. Damon's honed delivery, with a slight sneer creeping onto his face and eyes that flash the second the punchline was delivered, is surely the product of 20+ years of busting balls at or near basketball courts and playgrounds.
- The Blazers magic number is at 4 if you are paranoid.
- If you're still booing Darius Miles, there's something missing in your life. You need a hug. And a cultural sensitivity workshop. And a brain transplant.
- If you're still sarcastically head bopping to make fun of him, do it harder. Like, really really hard. To the point where you give yourself a concussion.
- Brandon's best postgame quote: "we were just business tonight."
- LaMarcus' best quote: "we dictate our own future."
- After the game, LaMarcus and Greg were enjoying a good laugh and some rare back and forth banter in front of reporters. Greg was giving LaMarcus a hard time because he thought LMA had elbowed him. "I looked over and you were the only person I saw." LMA denied being the culprit, although his inability to stop laughing seemed to contradict his denial.
- Greg also turned to Channing at one point and said, "What's up with the jacket?" Channing had on a heavy raincoat -- not exactly dressed for the Saturday night club scene. "It's raining, Big Fella!" Channing shot back before heading out of the locker room.
- And, boy, was it raining. After getting soaked while walking through the downpour from the parking lot to the stadium, the security lady that checks our laptop bags for explosives was looking at me like I was one of the dogs from Rebecca Haarlow's Adopt-a-Pet event. I'm an Oregonian: I don't own an umbrella. What do you want from me?
- In shoe news (because there was literally nothing going on tonight, if you hadn't already guessed) Greg was sporting a bright white pair of Air Force Ones. And the highlight of the evening was Jason Quick popping out from his hiding place (behind the locker room door) to discuss Brandon's red Chuck Taylors and to ask whether or not Brandon has worn Chucks (Channing's preferred shoe) before. Brandon has, although it's a rarity; he goes for Lacoste and Nike more regularly. During one of the in-game big screen promos they ask the players how many pairs of shoes they have. Whatever # Brandon said he had, multiply that by about 45 and that's how many pairs of shoes he really has.
- Since this is starting to turn into an E! Style Guide, I'll add that after the last two games Brandon has been on the Mr. Rogers V-Neck sweater tip. Big thumbs up. V Necks: the NBA All Star's preferred sweater cut! Not just for dork bloggers anymore!!
Nate's Postgame Conference
My tape recorder filled up during Nate's session. My sincere apologies. Given the rest of my recap so far, I know you're going to think I'm making this up because I didn't want to spend the 10 minutes it would take to type up his comments after such a dreary game. That is not true. Through my lawyers, I issue a firm denial.
Nate only spoke for about 3.5 minutes and I'm the male Mavis Beacon when it comes to words per minute these days. I swear, my recorder really did fill up.
So here's your synopsis from memory: Nate effusively praised Aldridge, particularly his decision making on offense and how he is looking to be patient, recognize mismatches and attacking the basket. He praised his team's defense. He was impressed by the 50-28 rebounding differential and saw that as a key to the win. He said the team would not practice tomorrow and would pick up preparations for Utah on Monday morning.
Rudy Gay has the same game kicks as Brandon Roy, just a different colorway.
-- Ben (firstname.lastname@example.org)