In a Nutshell
The Blazers use a strong second half filled with turnover-breakouts and three-pointers to vanquish a surprisingly active Grizzlies team playing without Zach Randolph. By virtue of the victory Portland clinches the 6th seed in the Western Conference, though playoff opponent is still TBD based on the outcome of the Lakers, Mavericks, and Thunder games tomorrow.
Those expecting the Blazers to come out and seize this game were disappointed in the first half. The Blazers settled for jumpers and Wesley Matthews non-drives throughout much of the first quarter, only attacking the rim for brief periods. The second quarter proved much the same story with Portland getting traction from Rudy Fernandez' hot three-point shooting and a few blocked shots down low on the other end. The score was 45-all at the half with Memphis looking like the more active team.
That all changed in the third period as Gerald Wallace and Nicolas Batum took over. The run (both literally and on the scoreboard) started with forced turnovers. Wallace, heretofore having an off night, proved unstoppable in the open court. Batum made some nice drives himself and hit threes besides. Memphis had no answer for either forward and, between the T.O.'s and the absence of Randolph, couldn't muster enough offense of their own to compensate. Portland took the third period 29-21 and then repeated in the fourth 28-23, walking away with the relatively easy 102-89 win.
The significant development out of this game is the playoff seeding. As I mentioned on the radio the other morning, 6th isn't the seed the Blazers were dreaming of when this season started but it's probably higher than they feared they'd get after Greg Oden and Brandon Roy went down. The Blazers needed to show they belong in these playoffs and the win tonight seals the deal on that. The game wasn't that impressive but winning non-impressive games is a good sign for this team. Wallace and Batum continue to go together like cake and frosting, a hopeful sign for the team's future.
LaMarcus Aldridge was the star in the halfcourt tonight, scoring 22 either over or around Memphis' big guys. He had 11 rebounds besides.
Marcus Camby started and chipped in 11 rebounds and 3 blocks in one of his more active games in the last month.
Wesley Matthews looked horrible on the drive early but made up for it by going 3-4 from distance for 13 points.
Gerald Wallace had 14 points but it seemed more like 1400. He turned this game around in the second half by attacking the rim and running in transition.
Andre Miller had 9 points, 8 assists, and 2 steals. Good enough.
Rudy Fernandez was the bench star tonight, shooting 4-5 from beyond the arc, 5-6 overall, and contributing 18 points in his 28 minutes. He also had 3 assists, a steal, and a nifty block!
Nicolas Batum only shot 4-14 but he helped Wallace turn the game around, ending up with 16 primarily off of his 7-8 free throw rate. Way to get aggressive. 5 rebounds and 2 blocks sealed the deal.
Brandon Roy played 16 minutes and had 5 assists but ended up having to bail out shoot late in the clock a couple times and never got his offense on track. 2 points, 1-4 shooting.
The deep bench got a total of 9 minutes between 4 players and didn't do much. They'll get to shine in Golden State tomorrow, no doubt.
Stats of the Night
- Grizzlies, among the most fast-break-reliant teams in the league, 4 fast break points. Portland 10.
- Grizz only outscore Portland by 4 in the paint and they're the best paint scoring team in the league. Thank you, no Z-Bo!
- Blazers 9 steals and 7 blocks. The defense wasn't exactly tight but it got aggressive in that second half.
- Blazers 9-18 from three-point land and 21-23 from the foul line. Extra points FTW.
Odd Notes and Links
O.J. Mayo signaled his desire to become a Trail Blazer by flashing the three-goggles after a first-quarter triple. The crowd booed.
This game was oddly officiated, and by oddly I mean badly. These refs must have dropped the iPhone down the toilet before the game because they were missing calls all night. Fortunately it wasn't a game-changer either way.
Straight Outta Vancouver will still be wondering about the 7th and 8th seeds.