Game Time: 5:00 p.m. Pacific TV: CSNNW and NBATV
The Blazers face off against the 4-7 Memphis Grizzlies in the final game of this so-far-discouraging road trip. Blazer fans can take heart, as the Grizzlies make a lot of teams feel better about themselves.
This is not to say that Memphis is a push-over. Far from it, in fact. Behind a bling-encrusted starting lineup of Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol (Blazer Killer alert!), O.J. Mayo, and Mike Conley the Grizz score 104.6 per game, good for 7th in the league. They shoot 46.5% from the field as a team. 70% of their field goal attempts (60 out of 86) come from the quartet of Gay, Randolph, Mayo, and Conley. All four are potent offensive weapons and the Grizzlies take full advantage. Opponents incapable of guarding straight up across the lineup are forced to decide against whom they're going to shade. If the player receiving the extra attention doesn't just score anyway that frontcourt of Gasol, Randolph, and Gay salivates over the opportunity to grab the offensive rebound against the weakened defense. Playing the Grizzlies is like swimming with a bunch of sharks. You don't know which of them will bite but it's pretty certain when they do it's going to hurt.
The foregoing will come as no surprise to anyone who has watched Memphis for the past couple of years. Equally unsurprising: their Achilles Heel (Achilles Leg, really) remains equally unchanged. Their defense remains among the most permissive in the league. The 104.6 points they score are eclipsed by the 107.2 they give up. Let's face it...any team playing both Randolph and Gay big minutes is going to have a hard time compensating for their absenteeism on the defensive end. Memphis has already lost a couple of obnoxiously-high-scoring overtime games, a franchise trademark. They've allowed 110+ points 6 times in their 11 games. They've won 4 of 5 when holding opponents under 100. Phoenix and Dallas stand among the vanquished (both quickly avenged) but so do Sacramento and Minnesota. For the most part Memphis will have trouble beating decent teams unless those teams get drawn into a Grizz-style game.
The Grizzlies suffer from a weak bench, spotty three-point shooting, and a lackadaisical attitude towards any rebound that doesn't lead directly to a score. There are exceptions. Darrell Arthur has blossomed into a nice player, Gay and Mayo can hit the long ball, Randolph is averaging double-digit rebounds. But as a whole you're going to be pretty safe pushing their scorers outside, grabbing their misses, and trying to tire their starters by making them chase the ball and your players around.
Though they have lost games to the Grizzlies the Blazers have always been able to prove themselves slightly-better-than-thou in the face of any challenge from this franchise. Portland does some of the same things wrong that Memphis does...traits which have come out during the last couple of weeks: concentrating too much on star-powered offense, not rebounding well, defending poorly. The teams allow virtually the same percentage from the field and that's not a credit to Portland. But the Blazers have always had extra grit, extra professionalism, a few more defensive stops, whatever it takes to finish ahead in the standings. The Blazers are also working on a pattern for the early season: play well, lose a very close and emotionally-fraught game to the Thunder, get obliterated by a team playing elite ball in the next game, then wake up from the Russell Westbrook-induced hangover and start playing well again against sub-par teams. Right now the Grizzlies are looking like a sub-par team. Unless the Blazers play like one also, this should be a win for Portland.
The easiest path to victory is going to be great rebounding following reasonable defense. The offense should take care of itself whether prosecuted via motion, isolation, or both. But Portland can't get sloppy against the Grizzlies and still expect to conquer. Memphis carries more volume scoring potential than the Blazers do. If Portland lets them tap that flow unabated it'll be hard to match.
Hear the Memphis groove at Straight Outta Vancouver.
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The Blazers have announced Brandon Roy will not play tonight.