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Trail Blazers Start Three-Game Homestand, Host Grizzlies

03/12/13
  1. Written by: erikgundersen  / avg. rating: 5.0

    BY ERIK GUNDERSEN

    On Tuesday, the Trail Blazers (29-33) face the Memphis Grizzlies (42-19) for the third time this season. This will be the Grizzlies first trip to the Rose Garden and the teams have one more meeting at the Rose Garden on April 3rd. Tip-off for Tuesday's game is set for 7PM and the game will be shown on KGW and can be heard on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM.

        •    These two teams faced each other only last week Wednesday, so there won't be a problem as far as lack of familiarity. The two teams have split their two meetings, with Memphis coming out on top in the previous one. Wedneday's game was the tale of two halves that came without a happy ending for the Trail Blazers. The first half was as good as one could have imagined from the Trail Blazers perspective. Facing the NBA's second-best defense, the Trail Blazers scored 50 points in the first half on 54 percent shooting from the field and 57.1 percent shooting on threes on seven attempts. Damian Lillard got going with relative ease in the first quarter, as he was able to effectively get to the rim, a recipe for efficiency, as he went five of seven, scoring 14 points to go along with two assists. The Trail Blazers got a solid effort from their second unit, as the Portland bench actually outscored Memphis' in the first half 11-8 with Eric Maynor as the catalyst with four points and four assists  as well as Victor Claver and Meyers Leonard, both of whom are currently nursing ankle injuries, making solid contributions. But the second half was another story as the Grizzlies turned up their defensive intensity, looking more like the unit they have been the whole season. Gasol or whomever was guarding screeners on Portland pick and rolls were hedging the picks very high. The Grizzlies were trying to taking away clean looks from three off pick and rolls for ball handlers and it resulted in a 2-13 second half from deep for Portland. The Trail Blazers shot 28.2 percent in the second half and scored only 35 points while Memphis scored 53 on 47.6 percent shooting.
       
    •    How did Memphis comeback? How can Portland improve? After the half-way point of the third quarter when the Trail Blazers held a 17-point lead, open looks from three and shots at the rim were few and far between. Memphis's defenders were coming out to the three-point line to chase away Portland's shooters and Gasol did a fantastic job forcing LaMarcus Aldridge, often the team's safety valve during rough offensive times, into a rough shooting night. Aldridge dished six assists and grabbed 10 rebounds despite his 2-13 shooting night, over for attempts fewer than his season average (17.6 field goal attempts per game). Also, the Trail Blazers struggled mightily to stop Gasol-Conley pick and rolls that set up Memphis' offense with good shots. The Grizzlies leaked out more in transition and got a scoring punch from Jerryd Bayless (13 points) off the bench. What really started Memphis' comeback, although Bayless got a lot of the credit in game write-ups after, it was the Conley-Gasol combo that should get the most credit. For the Trail Blazers, finding ways to contain Conley's penetration as always knowing where Gasol is, whether it's rolling to the rim or popping out for a midrange jumper. Gasol finished with 23 points and 12 rebounds on 10/17 shooting in a masterful performance and Conley was clinical, to steal a term from our soccer friends, scoring 20 points and dishing six assists on 11 shots. The Grizzlies ran more in the second as well, allowing them to get easy points. As Stotts stated after the game last week, the Grizzlies improved offense in the second half allowed them to get back on defense and get set, making it harder for his team to score. Getting stops and getting up and down will be key for the Trail Blazers in Tuesday's rematch and a key to getting stops will be finding ways to slow-down the Conley-Gasol combo.
      
     •    As far as injuries go for Tuesday, the statuses of Victor Claver and Meyers Leonard are up in the air. Joe Freeman of the Oregonian reports that Leonard could play as soon as Tuesday but that Claver will likely have to be out longer. As for Memphis, Zach Randolph continues to sit out, as he has missed the Grizzlies last three games. However, he has been upgraded to probable for Tuesday's game while Darrell Arthur remains doubtful. If Randolph does play, it will be his first game against the Trail Blazers this season.
      
     •    Tuesday's game is also the start of their last twenty games. As of right now, they are three games back of the currently eight-seeded Lakers. Of the 15 games left on the Trail Blazers schedule, 15 of them are against teams who are currently in the playoff picture. The only teams that they will play during the stretch are not currently in the playoff picture are Utah (twice), Detroit, Philadelphia and Dallas. 11 of those games are at home and nine of them are on the road. With the recent struggles in the West's second tier, playoffs, despite the loss in New Orleans, are still in play. However the Trail Blazers will have to find some sort of defensive consistency, and against the Grizzlies nearly at full strength they'll certainly have a challenge, in the first of their final 20, doing just that.

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