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Fourth Quarter Run Not Enough To Beat Tough Grizzlies

03/13/13
  1. Written by: erikgundersen

    BY ERIK GUNDERSEN

    LaMarcus Aldridge had a great performance all night scoring 28 points and grabbing 10 rebounds, but that and a 39-point fourth quarter weren't enough for the Trail Blazers (29-34) to beat the tough Memphis Grizzlies (43-19). The Grizzlies won the game 102-97 as they made life tough on the Trail Blazers all night on the offensive end.

    The Rose Garden was given a first-hand lesson in defensive basketball by the Memphis Grizzlies. The team known for their "grit and grind," quieted the Rose Garden crowd by playing their brand of basketball. They made the game slow and they made it ugly. For most of the night, the Rose Garden was quiet as the Memphis defense forced the Trail Blazers into contested shot after contested shot.

    "Memphis is a good team. They're physical, they play great team defense, they play individual defense. It was a struggle to score all night. I though we had some good efforts, but they're the fourth seed in the West right now. They're a good team, playoff tested, and our team can learn from the physical nature of the way they play, how they defend. It's certainly disappointing to lose, but I thought we gave a good effort. We didn't shoot the ball well. Part of that was us, part of that was their good defense." said Stotts.

    Through three quarters, the Trail Blazers collectively shot 36 percent from the field and went three of 12 from the three-point line. For the Trail Blazers, a team that averages nearly 24 attempts per game, good for fifth in the league, that's disastrous. They only shot 16 on the night, making five of them (31.3 percent).

    "It's hard to set up plays or get into them, they just make it hard to get good looks," Damian Lillard said. They're consistent with making it tough trying to get good shots. They run guys off the three point line. When they do give up threes, they contest every one."

    Making matters worse for the Trail Blazers on a night where only Aldridge, who had a great game in the post, and Lillard, who was able to get decent looks (8-17 shooting, 27 points, seven assists), could do anything offensively, the Grizzlies scored with ease.

    At halftime the big-man unit of Marc Gasol (20 points, two rebounds), Zach Randolph (19 points, 10 rebounds) and Ed Davis (14 points, nine rebounds) all had 10 points apiece, living in the paint. On the night, the Gasol/Randolph/Davis tandem combined or 53 points and 25 rebounds as the Grizzlies outscored the Trail Blazers 52-40 in the paint. Aldridge did his best to give the Trail Blazers a paint presence as he went down low for much of the night. His 28 points and 10 rebounds were a fantastic line, but with Gasol patrolling the paint and the Grizzlies flying anywhere, it was tough to find help aside from Lillard.

    Wesley Matthews and JJ Hickson both had off nights, both going three for 10 from the field. Nicolas Batum went 0 for five, as his right wrist continues to give him trouble, along with 10 rebounds. Hickson conceded the Trail Blazers could have executed better but there was no denying that the Grizzlies put the Trail Blazers out of their offensive comfort zone.

    "We could have done a better job of setting screens and executing what we do to make it a little easier on us offensively, but you have to give them credit where credit its due. They definitely clog the paint up and they're a low possession team so when they go up five, six points, it's tough to get those five or six points back because they grind games out."

    The Trail Blazers had a few things that helped them inch closer and give themselves a chance, one of which was the free-throw line, where the Trail Blazers made 28 of their 29 tries. They also out rebounded the Grizzlies 46 to 37. But what really helped the Trail Blazers was when they went small.

    With 6:47 left in the game and the Trail Blazers down by nine, Stotts went to a small line-up of Eric Maynor, who finished with 11 points and four assists in 26:19 of the bench, along with Lillard, Matthews, Nicolas Batum and Aldridge. The move helped create more space on the floor and the Trail Blazers had found a way to stretch the Grizzlies out and also wake up the Rose Garden crowd.

    The Trail Blazers shot 56 percent in the final period bringing their percentage to 41 on the night.

    However, despite the fact that Maynor scored 11 points in the final period and Aldridge and Lillard continued their good offensive nights, the Trail Blazers couldn't get stops, conceding 34 points on 58 percent shooting. Conley was the biggest thorn in Portland's side, as he scored 12 of his 14 points in the final period to go along with 15 assist on the night. In addition to Conley getting to the basket, Tayshaun Prince hit two timely shots when the Trail Blazers were within five points, once on a corner-three at the 3:47 mark and another time with an isolation that he finished four feet from the basket with 1:26 left.

    The Trail Blazers played the free-throw game for the final minute and even got the lead down to as low as three points after Eric Maynor hit three free-throws with two seconds left. Jerryd Bayless finally put the game on ice with two free-throws and that was that.

    "It was a big game for us. We needed to win and take care of home court and we didn't. Like I say after every game we lose, it makes everything harder now," said Damian Lillard.

    "We've got New York on Thursday. Right now, that's our concern," said Stotts.

    Meyers Leonard returned from his sprained ankle and scored six points off the bench in 17 minutes. Leonard said about the ankle that it was "a little tight, a little sore," but that he was feeling good after post-game conditioning.

    The Trail Blazers, now sitting alone 11th in the Western Conference, find themselves four games back of the eighth spot. With time catching up on them, they welcome the New York Knicks on Thursday. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 on TNT and the game can be heard on the radio on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM.


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