The Portland Trail Blazers defeated the Memphis Grizzlies, 97-84, at the Rose Garden on Tuesday night, pushing the team's record to 11-7.
About an hour before the game, Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins handed out a compliment when asked how he planned to defend Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge.
"LaMarcus can score on anybody," Hollins said. "It's not like he can't score against size. He's a great runner. He's a great post-up player. He's a great jump shooter and he can play in the pick and roll. He scores in a lot of ways. Putting a big or small is not going to change whether he's going to score."
Less than seven minutes into the game, Aldridge succeeded in making Hollins look like a master prognosticator. Aldridge made his first five baskets of the game, toying with Grizzlies forward Marreese Speightsas he did it. Aldridge was regularly a move, sometimes two, ahead of his mark, getting exactly the looks he wanted and hitting nothing but net, time after time. Speights alone was helpless, and when the doubling help finally arrived, fast and furious, it was too late.
The Grizzlies had entered the Rose Garden riding a 7-game winning streak, flush with full confidence to mask the half tank of gas left in their legs, and Aldridge's hot start provided an early lead and a statement of attendance. "We're here tonight," his willful scoring rampage declared, "it will take an 'A' effort to beat us." The Grizzlies could only muster a 'C' and got blown out because of it.
"LaMarcus set the tone early," Blazers guard Jamal Crawford said. "That's what All-Star type players do. He did that and we had to carry that momentum. They adjusted a little bit on him and our bench tried to come in and provide some energy and some spark."
Aldridge finished with a game-high 23 points on 8-for-13 shooting and added 6 rebounds and 3 assists.
That Aldridge got off early meant that the other Blazers starters were able to concentrate on their primary objectives rather than bearing extra scoring responsibility. For Gerald Wallace, this meant alternately shadowing and attacking Grizzlies forward Rudy Gay. Gay, a multi-talented scorer, finished 5-for-15 on the night, numbers inflated by spectacular back-to-back dunks just before halftime. As Portland pushed open a lead in the second and third quarters for the second night in a row, he was unable to keep pace offensively.
With Wallace was on perimeter lockdown, center Marcus Camby was on board patrol, snagging a season-high 22 rebounds and blocking 5 shots in less than 32 minutes. He held Grizzlies center Marc Gasol, a near All-Star talent, to 7 points and 4 rebounds, and wound up out-rebounding Memphis' starting five all by himself.
"He had 22 [rebounds]," Aldridge joked. "It ain't 23, but it's OK."
Aldridge's reference, of course, was to his own rebounding output in a recent game against the Toronto Raptors. After that game, Camby explained how he had worked to help Aldridge reach his new career-high. On Tuesday, a writer asked Aldridge if perhaps he stole a rebound from Camby late in the game to ensure that his rebounding number would be greater.
"I took one from you, Cam?" Aldridge shouted across the locker room.
"You steal them all," Camby cracked in reply, causing Aldridge to smile.
He then shook his head to set the record straight: "I didn't take one from him."
This was very much a night to proudly crack wise, as the Blazers felt they had atoned for four consecutive losses on the second half of back-to-backs. The team's mantra focused on completing the back-to-back-to-back trifecta by beating the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday, but there was still plenty of satisfaction to be found.
Even from Blazers coach Nate McMillan, who probably hasn't enjoyed another 20-turnover game more than this one over the last few years.
"LaMarcus had his rhythm going," McMillan said. "All of our post-ups were working. Had good ball movement. Other than the turnovers and a couple of offensive boards, a really good game. I thought Camby was just great defending the basket as well as rebounding the ball for us."
McMillan was able to completely empty his bench with a 20-point lead and a few minutes to play. Sure, the decision came three or four minutes of game time after the screams for the likes of Elliot Williams and Luke Babbitt began among fans and after Hollins pulled his starters, but McMillan still made a point of taking his credit.
"We finally got subs in, which you guys have been begging for," McMillan joked, a call back to his recent request to receive a break from the beat media on the late-game substitution second-guessing. The room erupted in laughter, as McMillan's stab seemed to have a very tiny air of self-deprecation to it.
Thanks to a Memphis third-quarter dry spell and steady defensive effort, the Blazers were able to laugh off the 20 turnovers -- six from Raymond Felton, who struggled all night long -- and poor outside shooting (5-for-22 as a team with Felton and Wesley Matthews combining for 2-10). The comfort level is certainly there when this team plays at home, and it's a deciding factor.
That reality is not lost on anyone, least of all Wallace, who continues to play his best ball at the Rose Garden.
"I think that road trip gave us a perspective on us as a team and what we have to do," Wallace said, as engaged and emphatic in his declarations as he's been all season. "We know we're taking care of business at home. The road is killing us right now. We know what we have to do on the road. Take care of the ball, execute, play our style of ball and maintain what we want to do as a team instead of getting into what other teams want to do. When you're on the road you have to come out with that spurt.
"We're all grown men, we've got to search down somewhere... There's no excuses. We have to come out and execute and do it. If we want to be one of the elite teams we have to come out and perform on the road."
Random Game Notes
- No real news on the Nicolas Batum extension negotiations front, although the two sides met again Tuesday. All Batum really said after the game: "If I can stay the next couple of years, I'll be glad to do it."
- Batum said the visa issue that prevented his mother from entering the United States "should be OK" and that, while he doesn't know exactly when they will be able to return, he hopes it will be "very soon."
- You really notice how few touches and chances there are for Batum when the second unit is running through Craig Smith.
- Absolutely unforgivable decision by Nolan Smith to take the final Chalupa 3-pointer instead of feeding Luke Babbitt for a repeat of his Monday magic. I was genuinely upset. I'm still genuinely upset. We were robbed of a chance at history. If you haven't seen this Chalupa Man Luke Babbitt tribute art (updated link) you must see it.
- Gay's back-to-back dunks were sensational. Video here.
- Wallace on the discombobulating schedule: "I already lost what day it is... Six, seven games in five days or whatever, that's going to be tough. Guys have to step up." Wait a minute. Check the math. Wouldn't that involve some doubleheaders? "Oh my bad," Wallace laughed at his goof. "That's what it feels like though."
- Craig Smith has taken to referring to himself as Rhino, constantly using the third person, which is as funny as it sounds. He tried to pass the buck about it when he got called out. "It's the fans putting me into the third person," he claimed, before admitting, "It's my alter ego. I've got to let it be known."
- Later, his succinct self-portrait: "Wide, girthy. Just like a Rhino. Sometimes my horns are visible."
- Light applause for former Blazers forward and BB Gun bandit Dante Cunningham when he checked in during the first quarter. 7 points and 4 rebounds in 12 minutes.
- Time for some follow-ups on Monday's amazing Jumbotron engagement proposal by Amber to Jeremy. First, Jeremy weighed in down in the post's comments, in case you missed that. "If you knew Amber then you wouldn't be surprised she did the proposing at all," he wrote. "I gave her the idea when I was bouncing proposal methods off her to see what kinds of things she would like... That's one of the reasons I was so shocked. She was absolutely against it." Incredible deception, Amber. The no-look pass of marriage proposals. Steve Nash-esque.
- Also, this clarification from Amber's sister, Brianna: "The family was not mad at your comment but thought it was funny. It was such fun teasing Jeremy about it." That is a major relief.
- This engagement story obviously ends with Dave overseeing the marriage ceremony as I sit in the back jotting down "Random Wedding Notes," such as: "Aunt Phyllis simply can't pull off that dress" and "The flower arrangements coordinate with the Maids of Honor dresses better than a Camby/Aldridge high-low lob" and "Who just crashed this party and tripped and spilled red wine all over Amber's dress? Oh, it was Raymond Felton, of course it was."
- Also, in my defense, I know that you all think I'm an old-fashioned grump because I wear blue sweaters 365 days a year, whine about point guards, and clearly spend all day, every day banging away on a keyboard while pretty much only going in public for events with the likes of Dwight Jaynes. To be clear: the shocking part of the proposal was not that Amber, a female, asked Jeremy, a male, to marry her. Some background: my mother is one of those
insanethoughtful radicalsfeminists who didn't change her last name when she got married and then decided to go totally off the deep endtry something unique by alternating the last names of her children between her surname and my father's so that one of my younger brothers has her last name while my other younger brother and I have my father's. (True story.) If that's not enough proof of my open-mindedness in these matters, I even offered to serve as the Best Man when Kevin Pelton tried to "marry" one of his 126 cats. (Don't ask.) (... And don't worry, I made that part up.)
- No, it wasn't the fact that a female proposing to a male is some unknown concept in American society that radically blew my sheltered little mind. The unusual part was that it was the first time I've seen such an event occur on a jumbotron in front of 20,000 strangers in the more than 300-400 live sporting events that I can remember attending. I've spoken to dozens of people about this event and no one else could recall a female-to-male jumbotron proposal. This was Andre Miller pretending to call the timeout and then coasting in for the uncontested lay-up. This was pure trailblazing.
- And, also, there was the matter of Jeremy, who, instead of saying "yes," decided to stare at the big screen as if he was imitating the stuffed animals that hang on the walls of the Camp 18 restaurant that everyone stops at to eat chicken fried steak on the way to the coast. That made it 100 times better.
- There's absolutely no question that Amber's bold move will be a cherished family story for decades. She won. And, from Jeremy's comments on Monday, it's clear he emerged a big winner, too. Sincere congratulations, again, to both of them and to their families.
- Sign of the night: "Blazers commit Grizzly murder."
- Jamal Crawford prefers the following things, according to his statements on a jumbotron video interview: Ninjas over pirates, Rihanna over Beyonce, Stallone over Arnold, pizza over pasta, a D.J. over a live band, Star Wars over Star Trek, snow over sand, a dive bar over a dance club and a laptop over a tablet.
- DON'T FORGET TO HELP US SEND 600 KIDS TO THE MARCH 22ND GAME AGAINST THE GRIZZLIES FOR BLAZERSEDGE NIGHT. It's easy to do and makes a huge difference!
Nate McMillan's Post-Game Comments
Cool off hottest team in NBA
It was a big challenge. We knew this team was really good defensively, forcing turnovers. Last night they had an unbelievable comeback and in the first quarter we had 8 turnovers. That was the key. Offensive rebounding and taking care of the ball. We talked about taking care of the ball the whole game, never did, but the defense was good enough to hold and we had some guys that had some great performances playing inside, LaMarcus had his rhythm going. All of our post-ups were working. Had good ball movement. Other than the turnovers and a couple of offensive boards, a really good game. I thought Camby was just great defending the basket as well as rebounding the ball for us.
Gerald Wallace on Rudy Gay
A big body like that, Gerald has drawn that assignment, the top wing 2 or 3 and has done a nice job. Gay is playing very well for Memphis. Tonight, not only did we want to put Gerald on him but go at Rudy, make Rudy play some defense against Wallace. Our post-ups were good for us tonight.
Marcus Camby has 22 boards
We need everybody to go to the boards. When we get guys going to the boards, it leads to transition. The tempo we want. A lot of times when Camby is cleaning up the boards like this, we assume. Tomorrow night we can't assume that Camby is going to be there to get all the boards, we've got to help him on the boards.
Return of confidence?
I think we're still working on rhythm, still working on execution. What I do see is guys challenging each other. When we're not doing what we're supposed to do I'm hearing them talk to each other, challenge each other. The first words when I walked into the locker room tonight from Gerald Wallace was, 'Let's just not be happy with 2. Let's go get this game tomorrow night.' Those are the things I'm hearing and we've just got to continue to build our rhythm and our style of play.
LaMarcus Aldridge didn't shoot much in second half
Some other guys were doing some things, he missed a couple of shots and then we finally got subs in, which you guys have been begging for.
36 free throws attempted
Big key. Big key for us is to win the free throw line. It just shows that you are the aggressors. The inside game was working for us.
Offensively -- fixed some things in the last two games?
We're starting to get a feel. A better feel. We're knocking down some shots. I think the last two games we've rebounded the ball well which has led to us getting out and getting some easy baskets. A few of those games we lost we weren't defending. Teams were shooting 60, 70, 80 percent the first half and shooting high percentages in those games and we weren't rebounding the ball. Camby was out. Now we've gotten back to rebounding the ball, we're getting some steals off of our defense and we're getting some easy baskets. And we're getting better in the halfcourt. It's always good to see the ball go in the hole.
Focusing on inside out offense?
That's the way we want t o play . That's the way we want to play. Inside out, whether it's through a post-up of LaMarcus, Gerald, Smith has been good for us. If it's not post-up, then penetration. The defense collapses and now you can get open shots on the perimeter. Not just coming down and settling. Try to get to the basket. I thought tonight we did that.
-- Ben Golliver | email@example.com | Twitter