Team Records: Portland (28-35) at Memphis (38-25)
Game Info: 5 p.m., TV on CSNNW, radio on 750 the Game
Vegas Line: Memphis -8.5.
Refs: Jason Phillips, Nick Buchert, Pat Fraher.
The Skinny: The Blazers open up their season-ending three game road trip with a tilt in Memphis, a team no one seems to want to face in this year’s playoffs. With their upset of #1 seed San Antonio, and near upset of OKC in the second round last year despite lacking Rudy Gay, its hard not to see why Memphis is feared by many. The Grizzlies have won three straight but are coming off a much narrower than expected win over the league-worst Bobcats last night.
Last Time They Met: The Blazers fired away from deep (10-25 from 3) and from the line (25-25 on FTs) as they used a 22-8 run spanning the end of the third and the start of the fourth quarter to go ahead for good and secure their second win in as many tires over Memphis this season.
Projected Grizzlies Lineup:
PF: Marresse Speights (Florida, 4th season) – 8.7 PPG, 6.2 RPG, .8 APG
SF: Rudy Gay (Connecticut, 6th season) – 19.1 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 2.3 APG
C: Marc Gasol (Spain, 4th season) – 14.6 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 3.2 APG
SG: Tony Allen (Oklahoma State, 8th season) – 10 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 1.4 APG
PG: Michael Conley (Ohio State, 5th season) – 12.8 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 6.7 APG
Player to Watch: Tony Allen (pictured at right) – First things first, if you don’t follow Tony Allen on Twitter, do it and do it now (@aa000g9). He is one of the best and most entertaining athletes in any sport on there, perhaps because it is constantly updated with Allen’s stream of consciousness views on anything and everything, as bizarre as they may seem at times. On the court, Allen is a defensive stopper, widely regarded as perhaps the best perimeter defender in the league. He can also get to the rim, although he lacks finishing ability and has an amusing tendency to blow easy layups. He is not the greatest decision-maker on offense and does tend to turn the ball over too much. Still, for the value of his defense, its more than worth it to deal with these shortcomings.
Did You Know?: Earlier this year the Grizzlies became the first team since the 2003-04 Pacers to beat the defending western and eastern conference champions from the previous season on consecutive nights.
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: Out – SG Elliot Williams (Shoulder), PF Shawne Williams (Foot), PF LaMarcus Aldridge (Hip), PG Raymond Felton (Personal), C-Joel Przybilla (Bronchitis) Questionable-SG Jamal Crawford (Ankle), SF Nicolas Batum (Quad).
Memphis: Out – PF Darrell Arthur (Achilles)
Re-Evaluating Memphis: Thabeet’s Short Road Starting in Memphis
It may seem like forever but it was only three short years ago when Thabeet was taken with the #2 overall pick by the Grizzlies in the 2009 NBA Draft. Almost immediately following that pick, nothing has gone right for Hasheem. He suffered a fractured jaw in an early season game against the Blazers his rookie year and was out for several weeks. Upon his return he was buried in the depth chart behind Marc Gasol but when he did play, he didn’t exactly do well. The Grizzlies tried sending him down to the D-League and while he was moderately successful there, it was nowhere near the dominant performance one would have expected. Memphis finally gave up on him and now after a stop in Houston he finds himself in Portland, wondering if this is perhaps the final three games of his NBA career. Given his poor work ethic and questionable skills, this road that started only 3 years ago in Memphis might come to an end in just five days in Salt Lake City.
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.