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Game 57 Preview: Grizzlies vs. Blazers

A Look at the Grizzlies

Memphis has lost three games in a row already on this four game road swing.  As has been typical of them all season  they're scoring fine (over 100 in 5 of their last 6 games and 99 in that other game) but they can't defend worth beans.  You may remember the last game we played against them which went into overtime and ended up 135-132.  The good news is we won behind Zach Randolph's 40-point effort.  The bad news is that it took overtime...against the Grizzlies.  But that's the way it is with them.  You either put them down big or you have a fight on your hands.

As Steve Patterson indicated in the Quick Chat today for the first time all year Memphis is healthy, with only forward Stromile Swift (intermittent back spasms) fighting the injury bug.  Their lineup is anchored by the non-traded Pau Gasol, who is hovering right around 20 and 10 with 2 blocks and 3 assists per game.  He's a versatile scorer who can dominate a game when his head's in it.  Stopping him will be Portland's main challenge tonight.  As we're doing that, however, we can't forget about sharp-shooting forward Mike Miller.  He shoots 46.5% from the field and 42% from the free throw three point line (and takes more than 7 threes a game).  He dropped 45 points on Golden State in their last game and if he's on like that again we're going to have serious trouble.  Point guard Chucky Atkins has lost serious playing time to veteran Damon Stoudamire lately.  Stoudamire remains a poor shooter overall with Atkins registering higher but both can stroke it from range.  So can hyper-athletic rookie Rudy Gay if you leave him alone.  Between Gay, Swift, and Hakim Warrick they actually have a pretty athletic forward corps to keep you on your toes.  They don't bother with any kind of real center anymore, letting Gasol or one of the taller forwards foot the bill.  As you might expect they have trouble outrebounding their opponents that way.  Also as you might expect they like to run and score quickly so that doesn't matter.

If you can avoid giving Memphis high percentage shots and keep a hand in the face of their shooters you have an excellent chance of beating them.  They won't do anything else to win a game besides run and score.  If you let them get a head of steam, however, they're still an athletic and dangerous squad.

What I'd Like To See:

  1.  Here's a basic rule for the evening:  If we're scrambling on defense, struggling to cover loose men because we're having to double-team, and they're getting open shots we're in trouble.  If we stay at home, double team sensibly (if at all...Gasol is the only one I'd think about doubling), and remain in position to contest and then rebound we should be able to handle them.
  2.  Points in the paint will be a big deal.  You know they're going to launch from distance and that's fine.  But if they're also pounding us inside with Pau, or worse running it on the break for layups, we're in trouble.
  3.  Make Gasol play some individual defense.  If he's on Magloire then let Jamaal pound him inside.  If he's on Zach then let Zach take him to the wing and then drive on him.  Either way try to expose him and draw fouls.  If he's out or tired and all you have to worry about is Miller and Warrick your chances go up substantially.
  4.  Our guards should get really BIG eyes seeing those Memphis players lined up across from them.  A couple of them are short.  None of them defend or stop penetration.  Jack and Roy ought to be drivin', dishin', scorin' fools.
  5.  Hopefully our bench will be able to take advantage of theirs tonight.  They have some athletes but not a lot of coordination.  This should be an excellent opportunity for guys like Sergio and Martell to get some offense cranking.  Outlaw and Aldridge will have to play smart though because they're going against guys who can run as fast and jump as high as they can and they're more experienced to boot.  Our youngsters have to stick to the game plan--hopefully smart, controlled, yet aggressive offense--rather then get caught up in a pell-mell sprinting spree.
  6.  Burying the Grizzlies early and staying up by 10 after that would be the easiest way to win.  That's not our M.O. though.  Too bad...
--Dave (