Camby Helps Shut Down Memphis
Following the win over the Sacramento Kings on Monday night, Blazers coach Nate McMillan said he was happy with the win, but not totally satisfied. After this win, over the hottest team in the NBA, I’m sure he’s feeling even better. He's probably not yet totally satisfied, because he has high standards, but this was a very solid victory. And, he loves hustle and intensity, and his team provided a lot of both tonight.
Let’s get the one bad stat out of the way, and then we can get to the many positives that came out of this game. The Blazers turned the ball over 20 times. Any time you can turn the ball over eight times in a first quarter, and be tied at the end of that quarter, that means you’re doing a lot of other things right. Portland jumped out to a 10-point lead, despite the turnovers, and probably would have had a very substantial lead. But, that part was yet to come.
Defense and rebounding- that’s what won the day. That, and Marcus Camby- who provided both in a big way. Old Man River was in rare form in this one.
Camby, inspired by LaMarcus Aldridge’s 23-rebound effort in Toronto last week, recorded 22 against the Grizzlies. Not only did he have the 22 boards, but also had five blocked shots, and helped Portland totally shut down Memphis’ front line. Camby, Aldridge, Craig Smith, Kurt Thomas, and Gerald Wallace were fantastic inside defensively.
The Grizzlies had been getting huge performances from Rudy Gay and Marc Gasol, who was named the Western Conference Player of the Week. But, against Portland’s defense, Gay and Gasol combined to shoot just 7 for 22. Throw in Marreese Speights’ numbers, and that starting frontline was just 8 for 28.
Memphis had also been getting very good production out of their frontcourt. And, Mike Conley was effective at disrupting Portland’s offense and is so good at creating turnovers. But, offensively, he was just 3 for 13 against Portland’s pressure D.
Like in so many other Blazer wins, the tone was set early by Aldridge. Single cover him at your own peril. The Grizzlies decided to put Speights on him to start this game, and not bring a double team. Aldridge drilled his first five shots and Portland grabbed a 10-point lead. LaMarcus had 14 in the quarter, and after Memphis put the much-bigger Gasol on him, the damage was done. Aldridge ended with 23 points and only had to play 31 minutes.
Portland’s bench play was solid in this one as well, as Craig Smith, Jamal Crawford, and Nic Batum have made this a very dangerous second unit. Smith has been the surprise pickup of the off season. A solid defender, a load in the block offensively, and always willing to give up his body to hit the floor for a loose ball, the Rhino has become a fan favorite. You could even make the argument that he’s been the most consistent bench player the Blazers have.
Crawford, coming off his 26-point night against Sacramento, was solid against Memphis. He had 15 points, and a couple of dagger three pointers that helped put the Grizzlies down for good. Batum helped in that category as well, and had 10 points.
After Monday’s win, I made the comment that “now it gets tougher.” So, I say again, “now it gets tougher.” Playing for the third time in three nights, Wednesday the Blazers take on the Golden State Warriors in Oakland. I don’t even like saying that. To say we’ve got bad memories in that joint is an understatement. Portland has lost 11 of its last 12 on that court. Golden State has always been a good home-court team, but the Blazers’ struggles there have been tough to explain in recent years.
Another night, another opportunity. Turn the page, and get set for another game. Yes, that’s the theme of this season. A plane ride, a few hours of sleep, and away we go. Again.