Team Records: Memphis (42-19) at Portland (29-33)
Game Info: 7 p.m., TV on KGW, radio on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM.
Vegas Line: Memphis -1.5
Refs: Marc Davis, Tre Maddox, Zach Zarba
The Skinny: The Blazers look to rebound from their collapse in Memphis last week as they open a three game homestand against the surging Grizzlies. Memphis has now lost only once in the last month and a half, and that was to the even hotter Miami Heat. This is the second of three times Portland will face Memphis in the last month and a half of the season.
Last Time They Met: Portland blew a 17 point third quarter lead as the offense went cold late. Ex-Blazer Jerryd Bayless provided the spark off the bench for Memphis.
Projected Grizzlies Lineup:
PF: Ed Davis (North Carolina, 4th season) – 8.6 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 1 APG
SF: Tayshaun Prince (Kentucky, 11th season) – 11.1 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 2.5 APG
C: Marc Gasol (Spain, 5th season) – 13.9 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 3.9 APG
SG: Tony Allen (Oklahoma State, 9th season) – 8.9 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 1.2 APG
PG: Michael Conley (Ohio State, 6th season) – 13.3 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 5.9 APG
Player to Watch: Marc Gasol (pictured at right) – He might have been the less heralded of the Gasol brothers when his career began but right now Marc is clearly outclassing his brother. Unlike many European big men, Marc isn’t just a big body who shoots mid range jumpers and has trouble playing interior defense and rebounding. Instead, Marc is a banger inside, an excellent defender and rebounder who, although not the greatest leaper in the world, is seemingly always in the right position. Marc has a great feel for the high post on offense and has dramatically improved his free throw shooting this year as well (up to 86.5% from a career average of around 72-74%). He is sometimes a bit too unselfish on offense but when he is in full attack mode he is a tough player to stop on offense and to score against on defense.
Did You Know?: Michael Conley has recorded a steal in a franchise-record 52 straight games, easily the longest active streak in the NBA this season.
Song of the Day: “Live to Win” by Paul Stanley. This team certainly hasn’t given up on their slim playoff hopes, fighting to win every game so this song seemed appropriate. Enjoy:
Portland: Out – SG Elliot Williams (Achilles), SF Sasha Pavlovic (Quad), Doubtful-SF Victor Claver (Ankle), Questionable-C Meyers Leonard (Ankle).
Memphis: Questionable-PF Zach Randolph (Ankle), PF Darrel Arthur (Neck/Back)
Re-Evaluating Memphis: John Hollinger’s Portland Connection
When Memphis hired John Hollinger as their VP of Basketball Operations earlier this season, Hollinger became the second ex-Oregonian employee to hold a key personnel role in an NBA team (the other is of course David Kahn). Hollinger served as Oregonlive’s sports editor for three years in the late 90s/early 2000s. During that time, Hollinger developed his much total Player Efficiency Rating (PER), which is now probably the single most cited advanced stat in the NBA today. He may have left Portland but Portland hasn’t left him, as anyone who follows Hollinger on Twitter and sees his constant jokes about Portland and bike lanes knows.
The Bottom Line:
Portland wins if: They take care of the ball. If Portland doesn’t turn the ball against Memphis, they will take away Memphis’ primary offensive weapon and stand a good chance of beating them.
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.