Wow...what a game! This contest had more ups and downs than you could ever recap and an ending that had to be seen to be believed.
Grizzlies 103, Blazers 102
--As has become all too frequent with the Blazers this year this game was a tale of two halves. Our offense was passable in the first half, but barely. We were scoring but we weren't moving the ball that well and we were out on the perimeter a lot. Meanwhile our defense was porous and foul-prone and we'd have done better rebounding if we had thrown Sister Mary Margaret from the School of the Blind out there. (Don't laugh. The Memphis cameras filmed one of the luxury suites and there were indeed nuns in it...and they were dancing their little hearts out.) Pau Gasol cut through us like we weren't there. If Jamaal, Lamarcus, or Zach had him he'd take them outside then drive on them. If he didn't hit he got fouled. When Outlaw or somebody else got switched onto him he'd just shoot it right over them. He had 19 all by himself before intermission. Our transition defense was also poor in the first half.
--Did I mention the rebounding was bad? It was. Really bad. You know that "recently-divorced-ex-wife-coming-to-pick-up-the-couch" moment...and she brought the in-laws? It was worse than that.
--The second half, on the other hand, was fairly inspired. First of all--except for a small stretch in there where every point guard we put in the game felt it was his responsibility to win the game by himself with long jumpers, which led to a disturbing number of Memphis breaks--our offense was mostly in the paint. The guards drove. Zach drove. Magloire posted deep. We got offensive rebounds and putbacks. Plus we'd had enough of the rebounding thing. We went into halftime running a six rebound deficit. We ended the game up ten. That means we outrebounded them by sixteen in the second half, which is amazing. The defense was also a lot more active in the second half. All put together it took one of our worst halves in a while and turned it into a legitimate chance to win.
--One thing that killed us all night was foul shots. Both teams shot amazing percentages (Portland 81%, Memphis 94%) but Memphis went there 33 times while we only went 16. The number of total personal fouls was a lot closer than that, however, with Memphis being whistled for 21 and the Blazers 24. That would usually mean that Memphis was more aggressive, which was certainly true in the first half. My guess is the tone was set there and it was hard to shake the rest of the game even though we started driving more. If we want to fix this we MUST come out with more energy and set the tone early!
--Now...to that ending we were talking about. (If you want a blow-by-blow recounting as it happened complete with tons of exclamation points and CAPS you can read it for yourself in the GameDay Open Thread below.) After a hard-fought, up-and-down battle we ended up down 102-98 with 3.8 seconds left and we burned our last timeout. We had just been within 2 with a chance to tie but Zach missed the layup and Memphis got the ball to Rudy Gay for a two-handed, reverse Tomahawk jam. After that demoralizer the game was all but over. But we inbounded the ball to Brandon "You Can Call Me Clutch But I'm Really Automatic" Roy in the corner. All you saw was his hand come up over his defender and this long arc go...SWOOSH! It was right through the net...for three. 102-101. Memphis inbounds and we immediately foul Damon. 0.8 seconds left, Stoudamire to the line. We have no timeouts. Damon calmly hits the first. Then he intentionally misses the second off the back of the bracket. Ime Udoka grabs the ball, falls down, and...WHISTLE! FOUL ON MEMPHIS! This was amazing for two reasons. First you NEVER see that call made in that situation for anyone, anywhere. Second the replays showed for sure that Ime wasn't...even...touched. It was a completely bogus call. The refs reviewed the time and determined that the "foul" occurred before the buzzer, so Ime goes to the line for two with the chance to send us into overtime. He calmly makes the first, but then the second clanked off the back bracket and time expired. I guarantee you Zach Zarba, the ref that made the questionable call, exhaled a sigh of relief at that. It would have been more fun had Ime actually made the free throw, of course, but it was still something to see.
--I am overjoyed to report that Zach had another very active defensive game! YES! I was pretty darn pleased watching him play. He shot a fairly normal 10-23 and ended up with 25 points. Other than his first quarter 1-5 stretch he played smart on the offensive end pretty much the whole time. You could quibble with only 4 defensive rebounds but he drew the unenviable assignment of guarding Pau Gasol when nobody else could stay with him and that's probably part of it.
--Jarrett Jack had another great offensive game, going 7-10 for 18 points. He wasn't as great moving the ball this game but his teammates weren't moving much either. I would pay good money to see Jarrett give it up on the break just one time though.
--There are very few players in the game as great in the clutch moments as Brandon Roy has been this year. If anybody actually watched Portland games there wouldn't be any doubt in that Rookie of the Year voting once they saw that he gets the ball in almost every crucial closing moment and so often does something good with it. He went 7-15 tonight, 19 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists.
--Jamaal Magloire deserves some special mention tonight. His line was 14 points, 10 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 blocks, 6-9 shooting. He posted deep most of the night and his offense was quick, decisive, and effective. It was probably the best offensive game I've seen him play as a Blazer. He got toasted like a campfire marshmallow when he was guarding Gasol but most of our guys did tonight. This was really a good game for him and had he been playing this way all year his reputation would be quite different around these parts. (I'm sure he would argue that had he been starting and playing 32 minutes per game all year his play would have been like this.)
--Despite the missed free throw at the end Ime did a reasonably good job guarding Mike Miller. It probably wasn't his best effort of the year but it was good enough to hold Miller to 8-20 shooting and keep him from destroying us. Ime ended up with 8 points, 8 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 assists, and a block.
--Travis Outlaw played a few minutes. It was one of those games where he'd hit a great jumper then make a mistake, then hit another jumper, then make a mistake. He shot 4-5, had 8 points, and got 2 blocks.
--Lamarcus Aldridge evidently remembered his success in the Laker game because he started his stint in this one firing outside jumpers...and missing. Nate got into his ear during a timeout and he got his feet in the paint before he shot after that. He couldn't stay out there long though because he couldn't guard anybody without either letting them go completely or picking up a foul. Mostly it was the latter, as he ended up with 4 fouls in 10 total minutes of playing time.
--Sergio played but fired five shots and missed four of them. All were long jumpers and that was the end of him. Dan Dickau was also off from the field but he out-Sergioed Sergio by getting 6 assists in 10 minutes of playing time.
--Martell's performances are officially under a "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy at this site until further notice.
--Nate had a GREAT tie on tonight. I wish I knew where he got these things (not that I could begin to afford them).
--Even with the loss this was still a pretty entertaining game. The crowd started out sparse and quiet but by the end of it they were as loud as anything. And this is the second home game in a row where we've hit 100 and not heard a single chant for chalupas! Thank heavens for small favors.