Riding a Rocky Mountain High following an impressive win over the Nuggets , the Portland Trail Blazers returned to the Moda Center Monday to host the Memphis Grizzlies. Nothing ever comes easy against Memphis, and although Portland welcomed the return of Damian Lillard, the Blazers suffered through an abysmal shooting night to fall at home.
The Blazers were led by LIllard (17 points, 7 assists), CJ McCollum (16 points, 4 assists) and Al-Farouq Aminu (15 points, 14 rebounds). The Grizzlies were led by Zach Randolph (26 points, 18 rebounds) and Courtney Lee (16 points, 3 assists).
Somebody left the door open coming into the building, because both teams started off ice-cold. The Blazers missed their first seven shots and survived off of only Aminu free throws before Noah Vonleh's driving spin-move layup nearly five minutes into the opening period.
Memphis shared the same struggle, making only one of their first 15 shots - at 4:30 in the period, the score stood at 6-5, following Aminu's putback layup.
Zach Randolph came off the Memphis bench and provided a spark, scoring six in the quarter as the Grizzlies built an early lead. Gerald Henderson countered for Portland, scoring five of his own, including a vicious reverse slam over Jeff Green.
End of First: Portland 15, Memphis 17
The style of play continued to be dominated in Memphis' favor into the second - McCollum scored the Blazers' first bucket of the period, but Randolph continued to do his work. His putback, followed by a three from Courtney Lee put the Grizzlies ahead 26-17.
Lillard struggled mightily from the field early, missing all five of his shots in the first half as he starts to re-adjust to joining the team again.
At the defensive end, Mason Plumlee played excellent defense against Marc Gasol, stealing the ball outright from him twice and holding him to only two points on 1-5 shooting for the half.
A late Aminu three and jumpers from McCollum and Allen Crabbe pulled Portland close again heading into the locker room.
Halftime: Portland 34, Memphis 38
Lillard and McCollum began to find their touch to start the third, connecting on back-to-back threes which tied the score at 40 early in the period.
But the Grizzlies' physical play would continue; every shot, every rebound would come at a price of some sort of contact and Portland couldn't find an answer.
Randolph checked back in and picked up right where he left off - his wide-open top of the key "jumper" gave Memphis a 7-point lead at 49-42, before Mario Chalmers extended it to 10 on the next possession.
Lillard continue to find his rhythm, scoring 11 in the period but each time it seemed the Blazers would threaten to make a run, something wouldn't go their way. Plumlee and Ed Davis each missed a pair of free throws, Lillard had his pocket picked by Tony Allen and the Grizzlies all of a sudden jumped out to a big lead.
End of Third: Portland 52 , Memphis 70
Never to say die, outside shooting helped Portland cut in to the deficit after it had grown to as large as 20 on JayMychal Green's layup early in the fourth. Crabbe, Aminu and Lillard each connected on back-to-back-to-back threes which darted the Blazers back within single-digits at 80-71 about halfway through the period.
Randolph continued to be a menace, somehow getting his hand on just about each loose ball and shouldering Memphis' scoring load. His long-two pushed the lead back out to 10 and Marc Gasol, who had been relatively quiet most of the evening, pushed in a nearly-automatic baseline fadeaway to remain in control.
Portland continues its longest handstand so far this season Wednesday, when the Los Angeles Clippers will visit the Moda Center - tip is set for 7 p.m. Stay tuned to Blazer's Edge tonight, for extended analysis of this game from Timmay!
-- Ryan Rosback | email@example.com | Twitter
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