The five-game Western swing continued Wednesday down in Memphis, Tennessee as the Portland Trail Blazers (44-22) looked to get back on track after two heartbreaking losses in Texas. The Blazers played well in both games against the Mavericks and Rockets but couldn’t hold on to leads, but the road wasn’t going to get easier as they faced the chiseled Grizzlies (37-26) before going back to Texas again. The Grizzlies have given Portland fits on both ends of the floor, known for their bump-n-grind defense, have won the last four of six from the Blazers, and handed them their worst loss of the season at the Moda Center in January.
Portland never really stood a chance tonight against a tough Grizzlies team who caused trouble for the Blazers and made them work for every single possession. The usual suspects; Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol, Mike Conley and Courtney Lee punish the Blazers to as much as 15-points and cruise to win 109-99. Memphis not only wins the season-series with another matchup in two weeks, but Portland’s losing streak now hits a season-high three games, with San Antonio tomorrow. Mo Williams injures his hip in the first half and never returned and is questionable against the Spurs.
Portland’s three-point shooting looked promising early on when they hit three of them to give some space, but their defense was poor as usual. Trouble reared its ugly head when Robin Lopez picked up two quick fouls fighting with Gasol for position. Terry Stotts elected to give Thomas Robinson some time and give the Blazers a burst of energy. Once he was bumping elbows with Randolph, he picks up two fouls. Randolph took it to LaMarcus Aldridge as they battled each other in the paint but the Blazers couldn’t make their shots. They allowed Memphis to shoot in mid 60 percent range, and it only climbed when the Blazers bench came in. Memphis’ deep bench didn’t flitch and continued the stride, riding a 54-47 lead by halftime.
The Grizzlies torched the opening third quarter and nailed their first six shots from the field, and as they aren’t the best shooting team in the lead as well as from deep, they were doing just that. The Blazers bigs were dealing with foul trouble and couldn’t be aggressive. Damian Lillard tried to carry the offensive load and got the Blazers down nine multiple times but Memphis answered every time.
Much of the same for the rest of the game, Portland mounted several runs with four minutes left but too many missed shots and missed free throws all but sealed the deal.
Who Was Hot
- Damian Lillard really had to work for his 32 points, seven assists, four rebounds but it came at 8-21 from the field and 4-8 from downtown. His game plan was to drive inside the paint to draw fouls in between the trees but fouls weren’t going his way. He had Conley hanging on him all night and his only wide open shots he got were really deep from three, everything else was contested.
- Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol, Mike Conley and Courtney Lee combine for 70 points and were highly efficient, Gasol led the way with 19 points, nine rebounds, seven assists. Randolph got 18 points, 12 rebounds, four assists on Aldridge.
- LaMarcus Aldridge much like Lillard had no real open look all night, 19 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks on 8-23 from the field.
- Nicolas Batum registered a quiet 15-point, eight rebound effort but made only five buckets.
- Thomas Robinson’s eight points, four rebound stat will be overlooked when read but when he came in early due to Lopez’s foul trouble he got looks underneath. Z-Bo took full advantage of the undersized young blood and brused him into committing four fouls. Nothing he could do more.
Who Was Not
- Wesley Matthews really struggled as he lit up the Mavericks and Rockets for 26 points in both those matchups. Tonight he had just five points on 1-7 from the field and 0-2 from three.
- Blazers allow Memphis to shoot 56% from the floor while Portland struggled all night at 40% and flirted with 39% at multiple times. The Grizzlies also shot better from downtown (50% to 41%) and they only took 12 attempts.
- The Blazers have lost their groove at the free throw line, many players splitting their attempts and went 22-29, they did however limit Memphis to 9-13 so that can be a plus? Maybe?
- Assists: Memphis 27 – Portland 18
- Steals: Memphis 7 – Portland 3
- Blocks: Memphis 4 – Portland 2
- Points in the paint: Memphis 54 – Portland 36
- Fast break points: Memphis 20 – Portland 12
Give credit to a well-known Grizzlies defense for keeping the game and tempo in their favor. The Blazers are now 0-3 on this five-game road trip with another date with the Spurs tomorrow night. The Spurs will also be on back-to-back as they slaughtered the Bulls in Chicago.