Team Records: Portland (28-31) at Memphis (39-19)
Game Info: 5 p.m., TV on CSNNW, radio on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM.
Vegas Line: Memphis -8
Refs: Mike Callahan, Haywoode Workman, Sean Wright
The Skinny: The Blazers begin a three game road trip in Memphis fresh off two straight easy wins over two of the NBA’s weakest teams in Charlotte and Minnesota. This is the first of three games between the two teams in about the next month. Memphis comes in having won nine of their last ten, with their only loss being to the even hotter Miami Heat.
Last Time They Met: Portland won an ugly grind it out affair against the Grizzlies, holding Memphis to only 12 fourth quarter points to hang on for a narrow two-point win.
Projected Grizzlies Lineup:
PF: Zach Randolph (Michigan State, 12th season) – 15.7 PPG, 11.6 RPG, 1.5 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: 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. Although he has struggled at times to stay healthy this season, when he is healthy he is a key factor for the Grizzlies as they look to make a playoff push.
Did You Know?: Portland has won three of the last four and fourteen of the last eighteen against the Grizzlies.
Song of the Day: “The Thrill is Gone” by BB King. One of my favorite songs of all time by Memphis resident and legendary musician BB King. Enjoy:
Portland: Out – SG Elliot Williams (Achilles), Doubtful-SF Sasha Pavlovic (Quad)
Memphis: Questionable-PF Zach Randolph (Ankle)
Re-Evaluating Memphis: Have They Squandered Their Opportunity?
When Memphis finally pulled the trigger this season on the long rumored trade to ship out Rudy Gay, many in the NBA media speculated that they had given up their legit chances of winning it all. To be honest, its hard to believe they had a legit shot either way, because while Gay was a good player, they were still a step behind the NBA’s elite and baring a Dallas 2011-style crazy run to a title, they could hardly be expected to win it all. Instead, they cleaned up their finances a bit and improved their flexibility for the next several years. Whether this leads to big things is anyone’s guess but its hard to say they squandered a title chance if they never really had one to begin with.
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.