Team Records: Memphis (43-29) at Portland (47-27)
Game Info: 6 p.m., TV on KGW/NBATV, radio on 620 AM
Vegas Line: Portland -2
Refs: Ed Malloy, Brent Barnaky, Gary Zielinski
Playoff Picture: Portland currently sits in fifth place and would play Houston if the playoffs started today. Portland’s magic number to clinch a playoff berth is six.
The Skinny: What a difference two games makes, or more to the point what a difference LMA makes. The Blazers rescued their road trip with two straight wins, including a thumping of the Bulls on Friday and now face a Memphis team in desperate need of a win to make the playoffs. Memphis is coming off a tough loss in Oakland Friday night and has lost their last three road games against teams with winning records.
Last Time They Met: Memphis pounded the Blazers, winning 109-99 in a game that wasn’t nearly that close.
Projected Grizzlies Lineup:
PF: Zach Randolph (Michigan State, 13th season) – 17.3 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 2.5 APG
SF: Tayshaun Prince (Kentucky, 12th season) – 6 PPG, 3 RPG, 1.5 APG
C: Marc Gasol (Spain, 6th season) – 13.9 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 3.6 APG
SG: Courtney Lee (Western Kentucky, 6th season) – 9.7 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 1.4 APG
PG: Michael Conley (Ohio State, 7th season) – 17.2 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 6 APG
Player to Watch: Michael Conley (pictured at right) – A few years into his career Conley was hardly impressing anyone, turning the ball over too much, having trouble defending players and often exhibiting really poor shot selection. How times have changed. Conley is an improving floor general with great hands and quickness, along with a good outside shot (that he is finally using at a good rate). Conley is also excellent at forcing steals and although he is otherwise not a very good defender, those steals often lead to easy Memphis points, important for a team that can stagnate at times on offense. He will be a challenge for Portland on Sunday.
Did You Know?: Memphis is tied for the third-best road winning percentage in the NBA (.571).
Song of the Day: “My Boyfriend’s Back” by The Angels. Now that LMA is back, the rest of the NBA is going to be in trouble. Enjoy:
Portland: Out-PF/C Joel Freeland (Knee)
Memphis: Out – SF Quincy Pondexter (Foot)
Re-Evaluating Memphis: Can They Make It?
With the season entering its final few weeks Memphis holds a percentage-points lead on Dallas for the final playoff spot and is a half game behind Phoeniix in seventh. Memphis’s remaining schedule is no cake walk, with only a road game against the Lakers as an almost certain win but they do have chances to get the wins they need head to head. Memphis’s final two games of the regular season are at Phoenix and home to Dallas. So if they are able to enter the final few games in (or just out of) playoff position, the odds are the Grizzlies will be able to have a say as to whether they’ll be in the playoffs or waiting to see if ping pong balls drop their way in the NBA Lottery.
The Bottom Line:
Portland wins if: They score 100 points. Memphis is not capable of keeping up with the Blazers if they are forced to match Portland shot for shot. If the Blazers hit the century mark, they should win.
Memphis wins if: They are able to stretch the Portland defense. Memphis is not a great jump shooting team. If they can reverse that, get hot tonight and stretch the Portland defense, opening up the inside to easy baskets, they should be able to score enough points to win.