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Game 25 Preview: Trail Blazers vs. Grizzlies

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Game Time:  5:00 p.m.  TV:  CSNNW

Back-to-back again, NBA?  Really?  Oh wait, we just went through that spiel a couple days ago, huh?  Don't mind me.  This was supposed to be the year when the Blazers laughed at the schedule and ripped their way through every challenge.  Instead we're all stuck in a 2007-esque time warp again.  I'm just bitter.

Speaking of stuck in a time warp, say hello to the Memphis Grizzlies who once again this year are summarizing themselves as the team that will score 111 and lose by 6.   When these two teams played a month ago we talked about their potent offensive lineup.  That still holds.  They have scorers, they shoot a high percentage, and if you don't pay attention they can put the scoreboard out of reach...at least temporarily.  Their major development offensively has been O.J. Mayo's demotion to the bench on account of horrific shooting.  With Zach Randolph and Rudy Gay in the starting lineup it's not like there were extra shots to be had anyway.  The team might actually be more balanced this way.  But starting Xavier Henry at shooting guard, even if he's getting fewer than a couple dozen minutes, wasn't on the radar for Memphis when the season started.

No matter who they put in the lineup, the Grizzlies can only defeat teams that play no defense.  They've notched wins against the Lakers and Mavericks, but those are just about the only two exceptions.  If you can score at all the Grizz will let you.  They're 26th in the league in fast break points allowed, 20th in points in the paint, a comparably-remarkable 17th in opponent field goal percentage, 25th in three-point percentage allowed, and 27th in defensive rebounding despite fielding a couple of spectacular offensive rebounders.  They're like the guy who will do and say almost anything if it leads to him scoring but who won't put in the work and consistency to make a good long-term relationship prospect.

The Grizzlies do excel at one aspect of defense:  creating turnovers.  They are 1st overall in the league in opponent turnovers generated, 2nd in opponent turnover percentage.  If you play sloppy, you will pay.  The first key to beating them is taking care of the ball.  The second is defending the paint, forcing them to their weak outside shooting to generate offense and guarding against Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol grabbing offensive rebounds off of misses.  If you can protect the ball on one end and the lane on the other it probably won't matter how much they score.

That means this game is mostly a question of which Blazer team will show up.  The inspired, alert, cooperative group who handled the Magic and Suns should have even less trouble with this team.  The inert, careless, "chuck and pray" group that we've seen in so many losses this year will quickly find that Memphis has far more practice with one-on-one chucking and thus their prayers get answered far more frequently.  Should the gave devolve thus the Blazers don't have much of a chance.  This should be a Portland win but with the team's streaky nature this year plus some history of bad games in Memphis, who knows?  Sometimes it seems like the games that only require two things to go right are the ones the Blazers lose.  Couple that with Portland's own dalliance with bad defense and this game is way up in the air.  

If you want to know how it's going at a glance, watch how many dunks the Grizz get.  If they're jamming, Portland's not getting back, not rotating, or not rebounding, any of which spells a loss.  Keep them away from the rim and the outlook's not that grim.

Check out Memphis fandom at Straight Outta Vancouver.

Enter tonight's Jersey Contest form here.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)