Mar 12

Blazers Locked Down By Memphis

By mikebarrett Posted in: Grizzlies
It may not be the most attractive style of play, and I'm sure glad I don't have to watch it every night, but it can be very effective.  

The Memphis Grizzlies came into the Rose Garden on Tuesday night ready to show why they have the league's top-ranked scoring defense.  Even though they allowed Portland to score 97 points (8 more than the Grizzlies normally give up), their half-court defense was absolutely in control throughout the better part of this game.  To Portland's credit, they did come back and to make the Grizzlies a little nervous in the final minute, but it was too little too late, as Memphis posted a 102-97 victory.

The Grizzlies possess a swarming, smothering defense, and they absolutely make you work for everything you get.  It turns games like this into slugfests, that resemble two-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust football games.  Their defense disrupts everything you try to do offensively, and it's very difficult to get into a flow.  

The Blazers never really could get much going at the offensive end until a few minor runs turned into a comeback that nearly got Portland to within striking distance in the closing minutes.  It didn't have the feel of a game that was decided by only five points (which it was), and that's exactly how the Grizzlies win games.  And, they've won a lot of them this way this season.

With the win, Memphis improved to 43-19, and closed to within a half-game of the Clippers for the third spot in the Western Conference playoff race.  For the Blazers, the loss made an already-thin margin of error even more razor thin, as the clock continues to tick on their slim chances to make the post season.  We said going into the game, given the difficulty of Portland's remaining schedule makes home games practically must-wins, and this was yet another setback.

The Grizzlies remain one of the hottest teams in the NBA, winners of 13 of their last 14 games. The one loss they've suffered during this stretch was a close loss in Miami, a game that saw Zach Randolph suffer a sprained ankle that would keep him out of their next four.  They went 4-0 when he was out.

Randolph made his return on this night, and he was effective, scoring 19 points and grabbing 10 rebounds in his 28 minutes on the floor.  Marc Gasol ended with 20 points, and point guard Mike Conley finished with 14 points and 15 assists.

The Blazers were led by LaMarcus Aldridge, who did everything he could to keep Portland in a position to strike late in this game.  Aldridge had 28 points and 10 rebounds, and was an efficient 10 of 19 from the field.

Damian Lillard, despite being slapped and clawed at the entire game, made it seven-straight games where he's scored 20 points or more.  Lillard had 27 against the Grizzlies, and also dished out 7 assists.  It was the 33rd time this season Lillard has scored 20 or more, which leads all rookies by a wide margin.  The next-closest rookies to him in that category are Bradley Beal and Dion Waiters, who each have 13 games of 20+ points.

We talked in the pre-game show about how this would be a battle of contrasting styles- Portland's up-and-down tempo and outside shooting, against Memphis' half-court, physical, beat-em-up defensive tone.  Clearly, the Grizzlies got the game exactly the way they wanted it, and the Blazers didn't have enough answers.

The one area we said was crucial to Portland's chances was three-point shooting.  The Blazers take a lot of long-range shots.  When they hit them, they are tough to beat.  That would have been the only way Portland could have gotten Memphis' defense to loosen up.  But, the Blazers ended the game 5 of 16 from behind the arc, and that just about sunk any chance they had to win this game.

The Blazers shot just 41 percent from the field, and considering the Grizzlies shot 51 percent, it's actually amazing this game was as close as it was.

Even though this isn't a particularly entertaining-style of basketball, the Grizzlies are good enough defensively to give them a shot at a deep playoff run.  The question is, do they have enough offense to win a best-of-seven series against an elite team?  The next two games for them will be an indicator.  They play the Clippers in L.A. on Wednesday night, and then battle the high-flying Nuggets, in Denver, on Friday.  That will be the ultimate contrast in styles.

The Blazers return to action on Thursday night when they look to win the season series from the New York Knicks.  That game will be available on TNT.


  1. Hi Mike, Of course this was my bowling night, but since it was on KGW, I got to watch parts of the game. It looked like a slug fest, so I wasn't surprised that Portland lost

    by Hg on 3/12/2013 11:38 PM
  2. Here is something to note that wasn't brought up in the game. Jerryd Bayless made his first Rose Garden appearance since the Blazers traded him in October of 2010. Before that, he had played against the Blazers 5 times since he was traded away, but never in the Rose Garden.

    When the Blazers traded Bayless to New Orleans, he got to play against them once in NO and wore the #32. Then shortly afterwards, Bayless was traded to Toronto. By that time the Raptors had already played their only appearance in the Rose Garden so there was no return during the 2010-2011 season, but he did get to play against the Blazers in Toronto that year wearing the #5.

    2011-2012 season was of course the lockout shorten season and the schedule dictated that the Blazers only appearance against the Raptors was in Toronto so no return to the Rose Garden that season as well and that game was Aldridge's 30-20 game.

    Then there was this season where Bayless played against his old team, but both in Memphis until tonight and I have to say that I know that Bayless knew that and he looked nervous out there compare to the other times he played against the Blazers the last three seasons.

    And the reason why I can remember those details is because I have Asperger's if you're all wondering. Like I can tell you off the top of my head that during the 2009-2010 season that the Blazers had 5 games wearing their red '77 jersey from their championship season. The first time was against the Rockets and that was Greg Oden's last game in the NBA at this point. The next time was against the Jazz and we lost that game and that game was Nic Batum's 2nd game back from his shoulder injury. Then the next time was in Toronto and that was their only time wearing it on the road and that was the road trip where the Blazers won games in four different uniforms. The next time was against Sacramento and the last time was against New York. Speaking of New York, the last 5 times the Blazers have played in Madison Square Garden, they're 3-0 in black, but 0-2 in red.

    by Shem on 3/12/2013 11:42 PM
  3. Memphis is impressive. Big, quick and well coached.
    The Blazers are on the right path. LMA continues to improve. It's a good sign moving forward.

    by the golden ladder on 3/13/2013 6:22 AM
  4. I pretty liked the efficient way of playing of Memphis. Efficient defense and efficient offense at a time. This shows small teams can do very well when they chose the way to play correctly -that is with intelligence and good gaming.

    The Memphis defense was responsable for the very low; almost shameful Portland 27/63 = 42,9 % 2 points shot efficiency. But who is responsable for the good Memphis offense 2 point shot efficiency (not playing home): 36/65 = 55.4 % ? Memphis did a (55.4 - 42.9) /42.9 = 29 % better efficiency 2 pts shooting. My opinion is portland is relying too much in 3 points shots. When this does not work; 2 point shots efficiency is too low. more work has to be done with 2 points near shooting.

    by Soopadeajo Sopadeajo on 3/13/2013 7:58 AM
  5. That was a scrappy game. It looked like a wrestling match most often.
    My question is, how can we keep a guy like Batum in the game when he is injured? If he's not going to score or defend, then give someone else a chance. The worst thing that happens is we still lose. He is a frail player most of the time. Now, all of the time. If we had received more help from that position, we might just have won that game.
    Just saying, Coach Stotts.

    by allie-oop on 3/13/2013 8:18 AM
  6. I totally agree with you SoopSopa. All our team wants to do is take the three pointers. When they fail, they don't know how to play. Lill and JJ are the only two who drive to the hoop. LA mainly does a turn and fade shot. Wes and Batum are three points guys. Blazer men, get the whole game going. Get more points in the paint and second chance points, please.

    by allie-oop on 3/13/2013 8:22 AM
  7. Good game. You say it is not a pretty style of play. I call it old school basketball. Big center. Passing center. Smothering defense. Lots of pushing and shoving. They will run when the opportunity is there. Perfect situation for the coach they have. If their offense had more movement and motion they could be compared to the 77 Blazers.
    Portland didn't back down from the physical play. They scratched and clawed. Despite that style of play not to our liking, our boys hung in there.
    Impressive. I have two questions for you.
    Where does Damian stack up against rookies all time?
    What is your opinion on JJ ? His future with Portland. His future in the league. Are his numbers inflated because he plays beside a jump shooting big?

    by Divotking on 3/13/2013 3:24 PM
  8. Leonard held his own on his return. We need points out of Batum as earlier in the year. I think that we actually missed Claver. Note that makes three rookies now making meaninful contributions.

    I was glad to see LMA rebound (pun intended) from his poor showing in Memphis.

    It was interesting to see JJ and Myers on the floor together.

    Maynor and Wes struggled and I think that was the differnce in the game.

    Hg: Are you in the fridge yet?

    by Ancientone on 3/13/2013 3:47 PM
  9. Ancientone, I didn't have time to get the coffee on let alone attack the fridge. I would like to pick that brain of yours from all the knowledge you have stuffed in there from all the Blazer years But, I guess one or two sentence at a time will do.

    I do agree with you about Batum,

    by Hg on 3/13/2013 9:29 PM
  10. If we have a look at the game Memphis has played -and won- at Clippers we see that Clippers had 25/46 = 54.3 % 2 points shots and Memphis 31/56 = 55.3 %. **Same 2 points effectivity**. The difference, where Clippers clearly lost the game, were the 3 pointers 6/26 = 23.1 % for Clippers and 6/12 = 50 % for Memphis.

    Clippers shot too many 3´s. and thus not enough high rentability 2 points. They probably opted to shoot so many 3 pointers because of the good Memphis defense, while they should have insisted, rather, with the 2 points to be able to resist Memphis rentable combined defense-offense. 3 pointers are never a solution if the effectivity of 2 points is too low or if a team does not shoot enough 2 points.

    by Soopadeajo Sopadeajo on 3/13/2013 9:53 PM
  11. Hi Mike are you still doing courtside or adam is...

    by LA 2012 on 3/14/2013 11:52 AM
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