In a Nutshell
The Grizzlies fare well in one area--forcing turnovers--and miserably everywhere else. They can't hit a shot, don't get any whistles, and get pounded into submission by a Trail Blazers team that kept the physical pressure on for the second game in a row. Marcus Camby becomes the transcendent star for one evening, ripping down 22 rebounds and adding 5 blocks, keeping the Grizz on the perimeter and missing.
Sadly a local windstorm kept killing power at Chateau de Dave, interrupting this game with frequency. The big picture came through fine but "flow" was not the strong point tonight. I'll refer you to Timmay's post-game open thread for a discussion of ups and downs. Or you could simply go to the Gameday Threads section and read people's comments as the game unfolded.
Yes, the Grizzlies were tired but the Blazers also turned in one of their strongest defensive efforts of the year tonight. It felt like they were buoyed by last night's discovery that physicality produces results. The Blazer big men especially were hammering both the boards and opponents. When the Grizzlies did get the ball inside they were hesitating ever so slightly, wondering from which direction the hammer would fall. With the bigs casting such a big shadow Portland's sometimes-spotty defense against perimeter drivers was neatly disguised. That moment of hesitation was all the guards needed to catch up to their men. After a while it looked like the Grizzlies just stopped going strong inside at all. Every close shot was either an offensive rebound, a fast break, or an accident. Hard-nosed play may well be the missing ingredient to Portland's defensive chemistry. More experimentation ahead.
Portland committed a ton of turnovers tonight, many in the passing lanes and many leading to fast breaks. Memphis will do that to you. The best part about the mistakes was that the Blazers refused to hang their heads and refused to stop running, attacking, and trying to make those passes. That perseverance is part of the reason you saw the refs continue to blow whistles for the Blazers. One team refused to give up when pressed tonight, the other got taken out of their game.
That said, Memphis looked as legit as you can when trailing by 20 much of the game. It's going to be interesting to see the next matchup between these two squads. I'll wager the Grizzlies will come loaded for bear.
Yeah...sorry about that.
If meriting an instant double-team is an indicator of stardom in this league then LaMarcus Aldridge is clearly a star now, at least when matched up against the likes of Marreese Speights. The Grizz started in single coverage on LMA. Big mistake. He torched them for 14 points in the first quarter, teaching them the error of their ways. After that their defense was in scramble mode for a while...turnover or bust. Aldridge finished 8-13 with 23 points and 6 rebounds. His own defense was superb, as was that of the entire frontcourt.
Gerald Wallace only had 7 points but I suspect he's started to figure out that if you can't beat them, pound them into a quivering ball and then beat them. Even without the offensive fireworks (only 6 shots making 3) he smashed some Grizzly paws in this game. He had 11 rebounds and 2 steals.
Marcus Camby...wow. Dude welded up the lane and wouldn't let anybody break in on his watch. 22 rebounds and 5 blocks are awe-inspiring numbers. His superhuman night made his fellow frontcourt members look spectacular, knowing they didn't have to worry about their backs.
Raymond Felton had 6 turnovers and 2 assists but he kept Portland's tempo up and didn't let the Grizzly guards, including Mike Conley, go too crazy. Good or bad production I like the Raymond Felton of the last few games much better than the Felton of the first dozen the exact same way I liked the blending in Andre Miller of 2010-11 way more than I liked the more explosive but also sticking out of the offense Andre Miller of 2009-10. As much as it's possible not to hurt your team with 6 turnovers, Felton didn't hurt this team tonight. At worst he was a wash. He's had better numbers and hamstrung this team more.
Wesley Matthews went 1-6 from distance but actually drove the lane against a shocked Memphis defense and converted a couple shots and a bunch of free throws (6-6 on the latter). He had 13 points. His defense wasn't bad either...a theme tonight.
Jamal Crawford followed up his night of the year against Sacramento with a typical Jamal night tonight: 5-13 shooting, 15 points and 4 assists in 22 minutes. He looks marginally more comfortable at point guard than he did earlier in the year. That doesn't mean it's a great look for the Blazers.
Speaking of comfortable, Craig Smith made himself right at home with 8 shots in 13 minutes tonight. He connected with 3 for 8 points. He had 3 rebounds, 2 offensive. I love the enthusiasm and that the guy is actually making waves off of Portland's bench, especially since he's doing it in the lane where the Blazers are otherwise silent. That said, he has to remember that rebounding is a strong and necessary part of his portfolio if he wants to remain on the court. Scoring is fun but he's paid to beast up on the boards when Portland runs with a rebounding-challenged bench crew. Just a small check to an otherwise great couple-week run.
Nicolas Batum played 22 minutes and hit 2-4 shots from the field, 5-5 from the foul line for 10 points. He had 2 rebounds, 2 assists, a steal, and a block. There's nothing that wrong with those numbers but they're not that right either. He appeared to be passing up opportunities tonight, going into "I'm just going to hang here and wait for something obvious on offense" mode. He almost looked cavalier about it...passing without even considering that he was open or could have attacked. Unselfishness is fine but you can't pass up good looks nor can Batum afford to flirt with any attitude that involves the lack of aggression. He went for one dunk that looked spectacular but that needs to be his normal M.O., not the exception.
Kurt Thomas played well in 10 minutes. It's possible he's been playing too many minutes lately. He looked more energetic tonight than he has in the last week.
Nolan Smith was all over the floor trying to make something happen in his 9 minutes of play. That's a good sign. If you're going to go out, get carried off on your shield. Unfortunately for him his biggest impact was missing 5 of 6 shots. But again...I'd rather see that than 0-2 right now. Try something and let coach pull you if it doesn't work out.
Elliot Williams hit a pretty shot. I like the way he moves. Unfortunately his game and court awareness aren't to the level we can see more of him yet.
Luke Babbitt followed up his single three-pointer in the last game with a single rebound in this one. Baby steps.
Chris Johnson played 4 minutes and had a MOOOOONNNNNNSSSSSTTTER dunk. Good for him.
Fun With Numbers
- Think the Grizzlies were playing fast? They attempted 90 shots off of a combination of tempo and offensive rebounds. Unfortunately for them they missed 56 of them for a homely 38% clip from the field. The Blazers 43% looked positively Classic Sunsian by comparison.
- Both teams provided blooper material from the arc, the Grizzlies shooting 3-14 for 21%, the Blazers 5-22 for 23%.
- Blazers lose 12-8 in fast break points and 46-32 in points in the paint. Throw 20 turnovers into the mix and this game could have easily been a disaster.
- Great defense was at least half of the difference in overcoming those deficits. Along with the shooting percentages, check these totals out: Gay 11 points, Gasol 7, Conley 6. That's a single quarter of production on many nights. Start with Camby and then credit each layer of Portland's defensive scheme. Nobody was waving hands tonight. It was run, move your feet, and get a body on somebody. The Grizzlies couldn't respond.
- The other difference was Memphis 13 of 17 from the foul line while the Blazers went 30 of 36. You don't see a gap like that too often.
Part two of Portland's mission is complete with this second win in three nights. The minutes still look good. All five starters played between 30-32 minutes tonight. However I don't know if any amount of minutes is going to spare their legs as they travel to the bay to play the Warriors tomorrow. If the Blazers get that game, it'll be something.
Read the Memphis perspective at Straight Outta Vancouver.
DON'T FORGET TO HELP US SEND UNDERPRIVILEGED KIDS TO THE MARCH 22ND GAME AGAINST THE GRIZZLIES FOR BLAZERSEDGE NIGHT. It's easy to do and makes a huge difference!