The Trail Blazers saw their eight-game winning streak in Memphis come to a crashing halt on Monday night, as this four-game trip continues. The Grizzlies hadn’t beaten the Blazers, in Memphis, since December of 2005. But, it should be noted, they have been beating good teams, like the Lakers and Heat, in Memphis this season.
Knowing that fact won’t make the Trail Blazers feel any better though. This will go down as yet another game that was decided by a poor fourth quarter for Portland’s offense. These are starting to pile up and the team continues to look for answers. I’ve given you enough numbers about how good Portland has been, in the two previous years, when holding a lead after the third quarter. This season, they’ve now lost five games when leading heading into the final quarter. No one is used to that.
In this particular fourth quarter, the Trail Blazers started out with a 64-61 lead. It disappeared very quickly, as Memphis started the period with a 15-2 run. Game over. The Grizzlies ended up outscoring Portland 25-9 in the quarter, and holding Portland to a season-low 73 points. Keep in mind, Memphis gives up an average of 102 points per game.
The most troubling fact is that this has become a bit of a trend. It’s the second-straight game the Blazers have set a season-low in scoring. Their previous worst was 78 points- in San Antonio on Sunday.
Like the game against the Spurs, the defense was good enough to win this game. But, offensively, the Blazers just can’t get anything going. After shooting 49 percent in the first game of the trip, in Phoenix, they’ve now shot 38 percent, in San Antonio, and ended up at 37 percent against the Grizzlies.
Going into this game, we said over and over again that Portland needed to get something from the second unit to have a chance. Well, other than the effort Dante Cunningham provided defensively, Portland’s bench again let the team down. They shot just 5 for 16 from the field. They won in Phoenix despite the bench, which shot 4 for 15. Against the Spurs, the second unit was 7 for 26. So, on this road trip, the bench is now 16 for 57 (28%).
You’re not going to win many NBA games when you’re getting that little out of your reserves. Not only do you see wild runs and swings in momentum during games because of this, you end up playing your regulars too many minutes because you can’t afford to have your big guns off the floor.
This was one of the worries when Nicolas Batum went to the bench in favor of Wesley Matthews. Now, that’s taking nothing away from Matthews, who has been fantastic as a starter. But, instead of having that energy and offense off the bench, they now have to break up both rotations in an attempt to keep some power on the floor. Batum, who thrived at times as a starter, appears lost at this time in his role as a reserve. He’s better than that, and will find his way. But, on this trip, for example, he is 2 for 18 from the field. They have to have more from him.
On this night, however, the starters didn’t exactly tear it up either. Again, the effort was there, but they just couldn’t hit enough big shots. Brandon Roy struggled through this contest, going 3 for 16, and ended with 7 points. Marcus Camby was an absolute warrior once again, scoring 6, blocking 6 shots, and pulling down 14 rebounds.
Like the other wins recently in Memphis, it seemed like Portland had recovered from a bad stretch in the first half, and would eventually take control of this game. The Blazers started the third quarter on a 13-4 run and grabbed the lead. They outscored the Grizzlies 22-12 in that third quarter, and appeared to be in very good shape heading into the fourth.
Of course, it didn’t turn out that way, as the Grizzlies seized control and didn’t look back. I would say that the crowd got involved, but there wasn’t a crowd. It’s always stunning to me when we’re in Memphis that they get zero support from this city. It’s one of the best arenas in the league, it’s an exciting young team, and can’t give tickets away. There are many cities much more deserving of a team. It’s a sad situation. They announced 10,467, but there’s no way there were over 5,000 in the joint. Again, sad.
Up next, it’s the Dallas Mavericks, who have been the hottest team in the NBA. Their 12-game winning streak, however, was snapped on Monday night by Milwaukee. The normal pattern in the NBA, and it’s been this way for years, is that teams who have a long winning streak snapped are usually due for a let down for the next few, and can be vulnerable. Portland certainly hopes so. They won twice in Dallas last season, and you know the Mavs remember that.
Talk to you from Dallas.