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Trail Blazers To Face Gritty Memphis Team

01/03/13
  1. Written by: erikgundersen  / avg. rating: 5.0

    BY ERIK GUNDERSEN

    After starting their stretch of four games in five nights with a huge upset in New York, the Trail Blazers (16-15, 8th in the West) were dominated by a Toronto team that they defeated by 18 last month. Now, they travel to Memphis to take on the Grizzlies (20-9, 4th in the West), one of the best and arguably the toughest team in the NBA. The game will tip off at 5PM and will be shown on CSNNW and can be heard on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM.

        •    The Trail Blazers already played a contender on their home floor and now they must do it again at the place known as "The Grind House" in Memphis. Memphis has a 13-3 record on their home floor and they just dominated the Boston Celtics even after the long-awaited return of Avery Bradley to the C's. The Trail Blazers will face the second-best defense in the NBA and it will be their toughest challenge offensively. The other night in Toronto they made lazy passes on the perimeter and seemed to be out of sync the entire game, that cannot happen against the Grizzlies. The Grizzlies are already great defending shots, as opponents have the 6th lowest effective field goal percentage (eFG% is a stat which takes into account the extra worth of three-pointers) against them but they also force the second most turnovers of any team in the league (16.2 opponents turnover percentage). A big area of concern against the Grizzlies will also be protecting the defensive glass. Mostly behind Zach Randolph, the Grizzlies are first in the NBA in offensive rebound percentage as they grab over 32.3% of available rebounds when they are on offense, which helps out them a great deal as they are not a great shooting team. JJ Hickson, LaMarcus Aldridge, Jared Jeffries and the rest of the Trail Blazers bigs have to make it priority number one to keep Randolph and Marc Gasol off the boards.
        
    •    Talk about a game of juicy match-ups. You've got Mike Conley against Damian Lillard, Nicolas Batum against Rudy Gay but most intriguing of all is the match-up between Zach Randolph and LaMarcus Aldridge. Both have made legitimate cases to make the All-Star team and have been the two of the best power forwards in the Western Conference (it's impossible to put anybody ahead of the season Tim Duncan is having). Aldridge and Randolph both have the ability to step out and hit long jumpers as well as score in the post. Aldridge is one of six players in the NBA (along with Nicolas Batum) to average over 2 assists, 1 block and 1 steal per game and he is also 7th in the NBA in scoring. Aldridge will have to fight hard to keep Randolph off the glass, especially when he is on defense, as Z-Bo specializes on crashing the boards after missed shots.
        
    •    Live by the three. If the Grizzlies have one defensive weakness, it's guarding the three-point line. The Grizzlies allow the third most three's attempted in the league and the fifth most three-pointers made to opponents. Obviously, the Trail Blazers have been failed by one of their most effective offensive weapons many times before, including in their last game in Toronto. But with the Marc Gasol, a legitimate contender for this year's Defensive Player Of The Year award patrolling the rim and ball hawks like Tony Allen and Mike Conley, it makes sense for Portland to fire away from deep when they get the chance. In all likelihood, it will take a massive effort from Matthews, Batum and Lillard to hit their open threes as well as bench players who will likely get a looks like Victor Claver or Luke Babbitt. Babbitt's abilities may not be as effective against a team that has so many quality centers. Also, Memphis could be without one of their biggest strengths in this game as two of their biggest bench contributors, Jerryd Bayless and Quincy Pondexter, are injured.  That will mean more minutes for Tony Allen and that will also mean that the Grizzlies won't be able to stretch the floor as effectively, allowing Portland to hopefully contain Gasol and Randolph on the interior a bit better. But having more Allen will only mean the game will be more of a defensive battle, and Portland will have to dig deep against a team that prides themselves on their "grit and grind" style. If this game is close late, I wouldn't be surprised to see Allen switch to Lillard in the game's final moments.

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