Team Records: Memphis (22-20) at Portland (33-12)
Game Info: 7 p.m., TV on CSNNW, radio on 620 AM
Vegas Line: Portland -4.5
Refs: Ken Mauer, Courtney Kirkland, Hawyoode Workman
The Skinny: The Blazers play the only western conference team they have yet to face this season as they take on the Memphis Grizzlies in a Tuesday night matchup at home. Memphis has been hovering just below the playoff cut-line from much of this season, although with Marc Gasol back for injury they are looking much better. Memphis comes into this game having won two straight and seven of eight overall.
Last Season: Memphis won the season series 2-1, marking the first time Memphis had won a season series over Portland since the 2005-06 season.
Projected Grizzlies Lineup:
PF: Zach Randolph (Michigan State, 13th season) – 17 PPG, 10.7 RPG, 2.7 APG
SF: Tayshaun Prince (Kentucky, 12th season) – 6.2 PPG, 3 RPG, 1.7 APG
C: Marc Gasol (Spain, 6th season) – 13.9 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 3.5 APG
SG: Courtney Lee (Western Kentucky, 6th season) – 9.2 PPG, 1.9 RPG, 1.2 APG
PG: Michael Conley (Ohio State, 7th season) – 10 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 6.2 APG
Player to Watch: Zach Randolph (pictured at right) – Okay, Blazer fans know a lot about Zach, that mid-first round pick back a decade ago that turned out to be a good, if deeply troubled, player. His troubles off the court are well documented, and we need not go into them here (let’s just say that his “Hoop Family” has gotten him into a fair amount of trouble at times) but Zach on the court has been just as up and down. After leaving Portland he bounced around the league a bit before landing in Memphis, where he looks, for the first time in his NBA career, to be truly at home. A nearly automatic double double, Zach may not be one of the NBA’s absolute best but he is constantly on the cusp of the all star discussion, and probably deserves to have more than two appearances. Zach will be key if Memphis is going to make any sort of playoff push this season.
Did You Know?: Memphis is 11-4 this season when Zach Randolph leads the team in scoring.
Song of the Day: “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again” by the Grateful Dead. You can’t go wrong with the Dead. Enjoy:
Portland: Probable-SF Nicolas Batum (Foot)
Memphis: Out – SF Quincy Pondexter (Foot), Questionable-SG Tony Allen (Wrist)
Memphis’ team is best analogized to a trash collector. If their opponent makes mistakes and turns the ball over, they will pick up the trash and make them pay. Memphis does a better job than anyone in the NBA of converting opponent mistakes into points. If a team starts playing sloppy, they can quickly find themselves on the wrong end of a big Memphis run. When they are forced to slow it down on offense, however, they do tend to struggle and are not a great half court offensive team. Memphis has also struggled mightily in half-court defense this year, though to be fair much of that is likely due to the extended absence of 2013 NBA Defensive Player of the Year Marc Gasol. Since his return, the most points they have allowed is 95. They will be tough to beat, tougher than you might expect based on their record.
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.