(This is a slightly expanded postgame post. Later, Dave will post all the stories when he gets back from Blazersedge Night 2012, and Ben will have the media row report as well)
The Portland Trail Blazers, uninterested in the "tanking" conversation, held off a late run from the Memphis Grizzlies at the Rose Garden for a 4-point Blazersedge Night win. Memphis considered this a "must-win", but the Blazers gave no ground, hitting clutch three pointers and free throws, while getting stops when they needed them.
The first half showed a marked change from the previous game: Blazers defense. Meanwhile, Felton and an aggressive Batum paced the early scoring. Memphis had trouble keeping up, as they bricked jumpers. At the first timeout (with under 5 minutes left), the Blazers led 13-10. Like most of the game, Aldridge was not involved in the office, primarily playing decoy. He finally scored twice with under 3 mins left. Some Blazer jumpers, combined with Memphis bricks, was enough for a small lead. Memphis relied on their strengths, steals and fast breaks, to stay close. However, Luke Babbit was left open for three at the buzzer... YES! A six point Blazer lead after one.
It was an ugly start to the second quarter, as Memphis' defense helped the Blazer bench stink it up. With 10 mins left, and Nolan Smith fairly ineffective, Jonny Flynn checked in. In three steady minutes, the gameday thread denizen were already calling for his assignment as permanent backup. While still leading, offensive rebounding was preventing the Blazers from taking control. As Zach Randolph heated up, the Blazers fell behind for a few seconds until Batum's three restored the lead. Memphis continued to exploit the poor Blazer transition D with easy buckets on the break. But Portland made just enough shots to keep a tenuous 5 point lead at halftime.
The second half began with another Memphis steal and fast break layup. Stop me if this feels familiar. The Blazers again keep a very small lead, but cannot pull away. The Griz D does nice work at keeping the Blazers off-balance, but they could not take advantage at the offensive end. Portland also focused on rebounding, preventing further Griz offensive boards. However, Memphis' shots were bound to fall in, and it happened in bunches. 11 straight Memphis points gave them a 7 point lead, and suddenly the Blazers were in comeback mode. After being shut down by the Memphis second-half defense, Batum scored 5 quick points, helping cut the deficit down to 3 at the end of the third quarter.
Wesley Matthews, struggling all night, hit an early fourth quarter three to keep the Blazers close, as both team's defense faltered. Jamal Crawford's lucky bounce on the fadeaway capped a 7 point run, giving the Blazers the lead at 73-71. In response, Memphis focuses on their big men, Gasol and Randolph. However, Gasol elbows Nolan in frustration, earning a Technical Foul, which gave the Blazers a 5 point lead. A rare LaMarcus appearance made it 7, but his turnover helped cut the lead to 4. Then three Memphis offensive rebounds cut the lead to 2. To keep Memphis close, Tony Allen scored an amazing 11 straight points. Wesley and Raymond kept the Blazers with a two possession lead, but an awful Blazer 24-second violation with 1 minute left gave Memphis life. They could not take advantage, losing possession on a fast break and resorting to fouls with 22 seconds left. Wesley hit two free throws to maintain the lead. Conley nailed a clutch three-pointer, but Jamal Crawford hit four straight free throws to finish off the Grizzlies.
Nicolas Batum led the Blazers from the opening tip tonight. He finished with 24 points, but did not show up in most other statistical areas. He was still the cog that made the Blazers go.
LaMarcus Aldridge was as quiet as a librarian tonight. He was really a background player, the opposite from the All-Star you expect him to be. His 16 points and 5 rebounds was enough.
Jamal Crawford's 17 points included the aforementioned four late free throws (10-10 overall) to seal the win.
Raymond Felton had decent stats. This included a key three-point play that helped the Blazers maintain their late lead. He finished with 13 points and 9 assists.
Wesley Matthews struggled early, but finished strong for 18 points. In the fourth quarter he missed an important layup but made up for it with a big three-pointer with under 4 minutes left. Overall, he went 50% for three, adding distance from his 0-fer slump of previous weeks.
Jonny Flynn became a gameday thread favorite in three minutes. Prepare for backup PG discussions.
Dave will have all the details from Blazersedge Night 2012, and Ben will post the media row report.
The Blazers are back in action tomorrow night, in LA against the dreaded Lakers. Here's hoping for no 37-7 start.