Game Time: 7:00 p.m Pacific TV: Comcast
The Grizzlies are not the same 1-6 team they were when we faced them a couple weeks ago in Memphis. They've actually earned a winning record since then, 4-3 to be exact. Granted those victories came over the Timberwolves, Clippers, Kings, and Sixers, but if beating subpar teams were a crime the Blazers would be doing hard time about now so we'll give them some credit. The winning formula for the Grizz has been pretty simple. Let Rudy Gay score all he wants and then get the ball to the big guys in his wake. Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol have had impressive runs as of late as Memphis has finally managed to tap into the scoring potential of multiple players at the same time...at least when they're not defended well. They've accomplished this by riding the starting lineup as much as possible and the bench can go suck an egg. Since the bench was sucking eggs long before this no matter how many minutes they got, it's worked out to the good. O.J. Mayo and Mike Conley are still spotty and Jamaal Tinsley has been mostly unfortunate, but if the frontcourt plays well the pressure is off the young (or old, in Tinsley's case) backcourt. If they have bad games then the Grizz will probably fall short, but if they have a good game Memphis actually has a chance to win.
Here's another streak that might surprise you. The Grizzlies have held their opponent under 100 in 4 out of their last 8 games. The only one of those they lost was to us. There was a time when Memphis couldn't hold an opponent under 100 in three quarters. Granted the offenses they've been lining up against aren't exactly prolific but that hasn't mattered much in the past. The Grizz were in the business of making every opposing offense prolific.
Memphis continues to do a nice job on the boards, especially offensive, and they continue to make a killing at the free throw line. Their athletes draw whistles, pure and simple. The extra points generated, second chance and charity alike, supplement their already fine scoring ability and make them dangerous.
All of that said, this is still Memphis. They're not going to hold down anyone who makes a sustained effort offensively. They're not good individual defenders and they don't work well together. They'll devolve into one-on-one play on offense as well. They'll turn the ball over. They barely attempt any threes and they don't hit the ones they attempt. That means halfcourt defense is fairly simple: keep them from scoring easily in the lane. They can shoot all the jumpers they want. They'll not win that way.
Bottom line: You probably shouldn't lose to the Grizzlies, period. You really shouldn't lose to the Grizzlies on your home floor.
Pivotal Points of the Game
1. Keep them from those extra points. Don't let them offensive rebound. Don't foul.
2. Do not let them run! Breakaways are one way they can easily hurt you. There's no excuse for not getting back on defense.
3. Once you have them in the halfcourt, pack the middle.
4. Don't be tempted to take the first shot they give you even when it looks nice. They're not good defenders but if you get lazy they look better than they are. They will SO let you move the ball. Do it! Every jumper should be wide open, preferably off of a pass. Otherwise you should be getting the ball inside.
5. Take advantage of their turnovers.
6. Stifle Rudy Gay and you take the game.
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Check out the Grizzlies' progress at StraightOuttaVancouver and ThreeShadesofBlue
P.S. It's not exactly Blazer-related but you have to give the Oregonian's Grant Butler props. This article has been begging to be written for years. Finally someone came through. Thanks, Grant!