After a two game road trip to Indiana and Boston, the 20-9 Memphis Grizzlies return home for one game as they host the 16-15 Portland Trail Blazers Friday night. The Grizzlies are 3 games behind the San Antonio Spurs in the Southwest Division. The Blazers are currently in a virtual tie with the Minnesota Timberwolves for the last playoff spot in the West.
Memphis won at the Boston Celtics Wednesday night 93-83. The Grizzlies had lost 3 of their last 4 games going into that game. After beating the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden 105-100 New Year’s night, the Blazers were routed 102-79 at the Toronto Raptors Wednesday night. The Blazers fell to 1-9 when scoring under 90 points. This is the third game on a four game road trip for Portland as the will travel to the Minnesota Timberwolves tomorrow.
Memphis won the last meeting in April last season 93-89. Before that Portland had won 5 of the previous six meetings between the teams. Memphis and Portland will play each other 3 more times this season between March 6 and April 3.
Portland is coached by Terry Stotts. The Blazers are being outscored 100-97 this season. Portland is shooting 43.8% from the field and 33.2% from 3 point range. Portland makes 76.2% of their free throws. The Trail Blazers average 41.3 rebounds per game and give up 42.4 per game. Portland opponents are shooting 46.6% from the field and 33.8% from 3 point range. The Blazers average 20.4 assists, 7.9 steals, 4.8 blocks, and 14.9 turnovers a game.
Portland power forward LaMarcus Aldridge averages 20.8 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1 steal, and 1.2 blocks a game. Sensational rookie point guard Damian Lillard averages 18.4 points, 3.4 rebounds, 6.4 rebounds, and 1.1 steals a game. Small forward Nicolas Batum averages 16.2 points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1.5 steals, and 1.2 blocks per game. Shooting guard Wesley Matthews averages 14.6 points, 2.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and 1.5 steals per game. Center J.J. Hickson averages 12.3 points and 10.8 rebounds per game. Portland is averaging just 17.7 points off the bench. Since 1986, no team has averaged under 18 points off the bench for a season. Center Meyers Leonard is out indefinitely with an ankle injury. The rest of the rotation includes forwards Luke Babbitt and Joel Freeland, along with guards Ronnie Price, Will Barton, Nolan Smith, Sasha Pavlovic, and Victor Claver.
The Grizzlies are coached by Lionel Hollins. Memphis is outscoring teams 95-90 this season. They are first in the league in points allowed and are #23 in scoring. The Grizzlies are shooting 43.6% from the field and 35.1% from 3 point range. The Grizzlies are #24 in field goal percentage and #16 in three point shooting. Memphis is #3 in the league in free throw shooting at 79.6% from the line. The Grizzlies average 43 rebounds per game and give up 39. Memphis is #1 in rebounds allowed and #12 in rebounding. Grizzlies’ opponents are shooting 43.4% from the field and 34.7% from 3 point range. Memphis is in the top 10 in the league in both categories. The Grizzlies average 21 assists, 9.4 steals, 5.4 blocks and 15.2 turnovers a game.
Small forward Rudy Gay averages 18 points per game, 5.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.5 steals and 0.8 blocks a game. Forward Zach Randolph averages 16.7 points, 12.3 rebounds to lead the team, and 1.3 assists per game. Randolph is second in the league in rebounding. he played the first 6 years of his career for the Blazers. Center Marc Gasol averages 13.9 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1 steal and 1.7 blocks per game to lead the team. Point guard Mike Conley, Jr. averages 13.5 points, 2.8 rebounds, 6.4 assists, and 2.4 steals a game to lead the team in the latter two categories. Guard Tony Allen, forward Marreese Speights, point guard Jerryd Bayless, forward Quincy Pondexter, Guard Wayne Ellington and forward Darrell Arthur make up the rest of the rotation. Allen starts at shooting guard and is one of the best defenders in the league. Pondexter is out indefinitely with a grade 2 MCL sprain. Bayless is questionable with an ankle injury.
Memphis doesn’t get a lot of scoring from their bench either averaging 25.5 points off the bench. The key to this game for Portland is to get back to the defensive intensity they showed earlier in the season. Four of the last six Blazer opponents have scored over 100 points, after none did in the previous 7 games. Memphis has forced at least 10 turnovers a game for 132 straight games, the longest active streak in the NBA. I think the Grizzlies grab a home win tonight before embarking on a three game Western road trip that will take them to the Phoenix Suns, Sacramento Kings, and Golden St Warriors.