Team Records: Memphis (3-2) at Portland (3-2)
Game Info: 7:30 p.m., TV on TNT, radio on 620 AM
Vegas Line: Memphis -4
TNT Announcers: Marv Albert, Chris Webber, Rachel Nichols
Refs: Derrick Stafford, Kevin Scott, Scott Wall
The Skinny: The Blazers come into this home tilt with Memphis fresh off two impressive road wins in a row. They look for a measure of revenge against the team that beat them in five games in the opening round of the playoffs last season.
Last Season: Memphis swept the season series 4-0 and won the playoff series between the two in five games.
Projected Grizzlies Lineup:
PF: Zach Randolph (Michigan State, 15th season) – 12.4 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 1 APG
SF: Tony Allen (Oklahoma State, 12th season) – 5.2 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 1.4 APG
C: Marc Gasol (Spain, 8th season) – 12 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 2.8 APG
SG: Courtney Lee (Western Kentucky, 8th season) – 10.4 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 1 APG
PG: Michael Conley (Ohio State, 9th season) – 13.4 PPG, 3 RPG, 7 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 and a half 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 went 11-1 combined in summer league and preseason play this offseason.
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: Questionable-PF Meyers Leonard (Ankle), Out-SG Gerald Henderson (Hip), PF Cliff Alexander (Knee)
Memphis: Questionable-C Marc Gasol (Neck), Out-PF Jarell Martin (Knee)
Memphis’s Game: 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. Playing Memphis is all about tempo, if you get stuck in the mud and play their ugly style, you’re in trouble. Memphis has done that with great success for years.
The Bottom Line:
Portland wins if: They score 100 points. Memphis is not as 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.