Team Records: Memphis (10-6) at Portland (10-7)
Game Info: 7 p.m., TV on CSNNW/NBATV, radio on 750 the Game
Vegas Line: Portland -5.5
Refs: Mike Callahan, Curtis Blair, Derek Richardson
The Skinny: The Blazers look to win their second in the back-to-back-to-back as the red hot Memphis Grizzlies visit town. The Grizzlies have won seven straight, including a dramatic come from behind victory over the Warriors last night in Oakland. While most of these wins have been over lesser opponents, they still seem to have recovered well from Zach Randolph’s injury a few weeks back.
Last season: Portland won last year’s season series 2-1. Portland has won 11 of the last 14 versus Memphis.
Projected Grizzlies Lineup:
PF: Marreese Speights (Florida, 4th season) – 8.4 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 1.1 APG
SF: Rudy Gay (Connecticut, 6th season) – 18.3 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 1.7 APG
C: Marc Gasol (Spain, 4th season) – 14.9 PPG, 10.6 RPG, 3 APG
SG: Tony Allen (Oklahoma State, 8th season) – 9.7 PPG, 3.4 RPG, .7 APG
PG: Michael Conley (Ohio State, 5th season) – 12.7 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 7.4 APG
Player to Watch: Rudy Gay (pictured at right) – When Rudy Gay went down in the middle of last season, it appeared that Memphis’ collapse was inevitable. The fact that they didn’t collapse, let alone came pretty close to making the Western Conference Finals, is a testament to their team as a whole. Still, especially with Zach Randolph out for an extended period of time, Gay is once again the key part of Memphis’ attack. Gay has a nearly unblockable midrange jumper that gives defense’s fits. Where he has really improved, however, has been on the defensive end. Scouts believe Gay is someone with the tools to be a very good defender if the focus is there, and it seems to be. If he can keep working on it, Gay could be a perennial All-Star for years to come.
Did You Know?: Tony Allen was selected to the NBA All-Defensive Second Team last season, the first such award for both himself and the franchise as a whole.
Portland: Out – C Greg Oden (knee); Probable – C Marcus Camby (groin), SF Gerald Wallace (finger)
Memphis: Out – PF Darrell Arthur (achilles), PF Zach Randolph (MCL)
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, as Golden State did last night. This helps explain why Memphis shoots 46.5% from the field, among the best in the NBA. 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. Doing this is more challenging than it might seem, however, and thus Memphis a tough foe for anyone to beat.
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 will almost certainly defeat them Tuesday.
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.