This was a fairly standard Blazer game, which made it a fairly odd Grizzlies game. As the final score indicates, this worked to Portland's advantage. The Blazers did exactly what they needed to do, not much more but certainly not less. They played a smart and efficient game, made relatively few mistakes, and faced the Grizzlies down mano-a-mano. In the end Memphis' weaknesses told more than Portland's. End of story.
The Blazers evidenced some basic flaws at the outset of the game, continuing through most of the first half. For one they let the Grizzlies pass the ball and find the open man from the outset. That's not a forte for the Grizz. They're used to hitting tough shots off the dribble. This "passing" thing made their looks a lot easier. For a while they liked it. Second, Portland turned the ball over and let the Grizzlies run out. If there were a manual on how to beat Memphis, Page One would have a title--bolded, centered, and in 92-point font--saying, "Never Ever Ever Ever Ever EVER Do That!" It's like the president making crank calls on the red phone. You're probably going to be OK but you're playing with fire. Also they let Memphis grab some opportune offensive rebounds. You wondered at first if the Blazers were going to get serious about this game.
On the other hand the Grizzlies defense, as per usual, looked like thin-sliced Swiss cheese in a hurricane. You got the same feeling watching LaMarcus Aldridge pop turn-arounds over Zach Randolph that you get when those "Please Save These Puppies" commercials come on the TV. It's sick and wrong and sad and the poor things look so helpless, but what can you do? The Blazers milked Aldridge and Brandon Roy and it didn't seem like either one missed a shot. Whatever shortcomings the Blazers showed were overcome by the cruelly stabbing offense. After the two stars took the bench and the second unit took over the offense stalled but the half finished strong as Martell Webster joined the duo as a third scorer (from the foul line anyway). The game was tied at 45 at the end of the half.
Turnover-inspired breakouts aside, the pace remained slow throughout the half. This would continue for most of the game. It was probably partially a strategic decision and partially the game flowing the same way it started, a victim of its own sloppiness. The Blazers made sure to work the ball down low from the outset. They also continued their trend of packing the middle defensively. Both stopped the Grizzlies from free-wheeling their way through the game. Both Rudy Gay and O.J. Mayo look more like Clark Kent than Superman when they're ground-bound and walking. That's not a bad outcome for Portland.
Entering the third period you got the strong feeling that whichever team made a run first was going to take the game. The Blazers ended up being that team. LaMarcus Aldridge provided nice energy on the boards and on defense. Greg Oden, absent for most of the first half with two fouls, played consistently and started taking advantage of the smaller Memphis defenders. As in Sunday's game layups, free throws, and assisted jumpers were the order of the day on offense. Portland got back defensively and kept Memphis off the boards. The Grizzlies, meanwhile, decided that jump shots were their road to salvation. If salvation is built with bricks, they were right. Portland exited the period up 8, usually a modest margin against Memphis but in this game a significant gap.
The Grizz made a final run at it in the fourth but Oden and Rudy Fernandez upped the energy factor on defense and kept them at bay. (That's right...Rudy Fernandez. Hola! Welcome to the season, Rudy.) The offense was a free-for-all with Oden beating down the door and everybody else charging through in his wake. When the smoke (and the "crowd") cleared the Blazers emerged victorious by 14. Memphis had some chances but they couldn't take advantage of them because of their lack of trust on offense and they couldn't sustain the open window because of their lack of defense.
Portland shot 45.7% for the game but a striking 50% (9-18) from distance. They finished slightly behind the Grizzlies in rebounds, had slightly more turnovers, but obliterated them in assists. Memphis took 78 shots to Portland's 70 but only shot 37.2% with a 10% clip (1-10) from the three-point arc. Marc Gasol had a nice game with 20 points and Mayo netted 17 on 8-18 shooting. Gay scored 12, Zach Randolph 11 (with 12 boards). That's not going to get it done for the Grizz. Credit Portland with knowing where to put pressure on and who to involve defensively (basically the same: Randolph and Gay).
Brandon Roy helped carry the team in the first half but stepped back in the second half to share the wealth. His rhythm was good both in terms of individual offense and game flow. 6-11 shooting, 20 points, 7 assists.
What happens when you don't guard LaMarcus Aldridge? You get Excedrin Headache #19. 19 would be the combination of 16 points and 3 assists. Had he been selfish LMA probably could have scored 38 tonight. And get this...he added 12 defensive rebounds. He killed the Grizz on the boards, especially during his ultra-active second half. He found a way to control the game besides just putting the ball in the basket. Add in 2 blocks and you have one of the best all-around games LaMarcus has played in a long time.
Greg Oden beasted up tonight. He looked disappointed to draw 2 fouls in 4 minutes in the first quarter. Nate saved him for the second half entirely. The guy just went out and played. He was a whirlwind on both ends. One he started spinning the Grizzlies couldn't stand against him. He finally started dunking tonight...a considerable relief to those of us who grimace every time he tries to finish with a soft chip shot around the rim (which has been often this season). 14 points, 6 rebounds (3 of each flavor), 6-10 shooting, 2 blocks, a ton of energy, and a semi-subtle game-changing presence. Nice.
Steve Blake scored 14 by doing what he does best: providing the outlet three. He was 4-6 from range, 5-9 overall.
Andre Miller equaled Roy's 7 assists and got the mojo moving in the second half. He was 3-9 from the field.
Rudy Fernandez had a really nice fourth quarter, most of the results of which don't show up in his 7 point, 2 rebound, 1 steal stat line. He actually defended and fought out there like he wanted playing time. If you'll pardon the expression, Rudy was the Blazers' edge last season. So far this year you could all but feel the edge get sucked out of the gym when he stepped on the floor. He showed some life last game and showed more this. Whether someone fed him a different breakfast, shocked him with paddles, or changed his brand of shaving cream they need to do more of it. We need that energy for a whole game.
This wasn't Joel Przybilla's kind of opponent and he only got 18 minutes of play before fouling out. He had 4 rebounds.
Martell Webster hit 1 three in 6 overall field goal attempts but went 6-6 from the foul line. He played Raggedy Andy to Travis Outlaw's Raggedy Ann. Other than one outstanding highlight dunk Travis went COMPLETELY spastic out there offensively. Some of the shots he attempted shouldn't be tried in H-O-R-S-E without adult supervision. He was 1-9 on the night. Whatever defense he provided got obliterated by him spoon-feeding possessions to the Grizzlies with that shooting. Webster got 16 minutes, Outlaw 22. Both have seen better days.
Jerryd Bayless got 4 minutes of run in which he collected a foul, an offensive rebound, and a turnover. After the early first quarter the Grizzlies did a pretty good job of defending themselves so he wasn't such a bright spot tonight.
Final Thoughts and Links
Getting this game was nice but the success won't be fully realized unless you also pick up tomorrow's game in Minnesota. With a 2-0 start you're looking at a pretty high chance of a good trip with possibilities of great.
Grizzlies center Hasheem Thabeet was injured in this game. Best wishes to him for a speedy recovery.
You can check out the Jersey Contest scoreboard over yonder. You can see the results of any individual game, including this one, by pulling it down from the menu beneath the scoreboard. Please note that due to the incorrect roster listing on tonight's form, everyone got credit for the "turnover" question no matter who they put. The problem has been fixed.
Enter tomorrow's Jersey Contest form right here.