mikebarrett

Apr 03

Memphis Drops Shorthanded Blazers

By mikebarrett
Memphis is one of the best defensive teams in the NBA.  They attack, they swarm, physically pound you, and they are relentless.  You had better have an answer if you wish to stay in a game against them.  

The Trail Blazers, missing over 35 points per game in their starting lineup with the absence of LaMarcus Aldridge and Nic Batum, just didn't have the firepower to keep up with this playoff-bound team.  Their only chance was to bomb away from the outside and try and stay in the game with one of their favorite weapons, the three-point shot.  They ended up going just 4 for 29 from behind the arc, and that was the end of that idea.

The Grizzlies took control of the game, and even when their lead was chopped to just seven points in the second half, easily responded to end Portland's hopes of a home win.  Memphis won it's 51st game of the season, a franchise record, with its 94-76 win.

Memphis is heading to the playoffs, and has a chance to improve its standing in the Western Conference.  Currently fifth in the race, they came into this game looking to get this important road trip off to a solid start.  That would be all the motivation they would need.

The Trail Blazers, who started three rookies, and even play five rookies at the same time for stretches (like they did Monday in Utah), would have had to play an excellent game at both ends to pull the upset.  Shooting just 41 percent, while allowing the Grizzlies to shoot 51 percent, just wasn't going to get it done.

The Grizzlies were led by Mike Conley, once again, who scored 20 points, on 7 for 11 shooting.  He hit three bombs from behind the arc, one fewer than the Blazers hit as a team. Monday Conley hit the game winner against San Antonio with less than a second to play, and his production early ensured this game would not need any late-game drama.

The Blazers got 17 points each from Damian Lillard and JJ Hickson, but that wasn't enough. Wesley Matthews, who was coming off a strong game in Utah Monday, ended just 5 for 16 from the field, and the bench unit shot just 5 for 21.

Turnovers were also an issue, once again, for the Blazers.  Like Monday in Salt Lake City, each time Portland would start to get a little rhythm offensively, the defense would create a turnover, and that would end the threat.

It doesn't get any easier (I realize I've used that phrase way too many times this season) on Friday, as the Houston Rockets visit the Rose Garden.  It'll be yet another opponent headed for the playoffs, with a lot to gain from a victory on the road.  That's just the way it'll be the rest of the season.

Aldridge told me in the hallway after the game that he's getting better, and I would guess he'll play in that game.  I have no official word on this at all, but I'm guess Batum sits again.  The other prediction, a pretty obvious one once again, is that if Portland doesn't shoot better than 41 percent, it'll be another long night.

Talk to you Friday.


20 Comments

  1. All of those missed shots. Some nights are like that. Even Babbit shot an open 3 airball.

    Very sloppy ball handling which is not surprising considering all the rookies and groups not used to playing together.

    by Ancientone on 4/3/2013 10:48 PM
  2. It wasn't as if Portland was just throwing in the towel, without their all star and Batum they had very little chance of winning.

    We are still growing, still learning how to play and they still are a good team, I was expecting the three to start dropping at anytime.

    I love the Play of Leonard, he can hit those shots from the outside and that will help.

    by Hg on 4/3/2013 11:09 PM
  3. The one thing going forward with the development of Meyers Leonard is how similar he is to LaMarcus Aldridge. Meaning, he's a finesse type front court player and one of his main weapons is the perimeter shot.

    Assuming Hickson leaves (and I'm betting he is), and Meyers steps in as the starting center (assuming the Blazers don't sign a shot blocking and rebounding machine at center), there could be rebounding problems and shot blocking problems.

    Aldridge has always played next to a dominate rebounding player... from Przybilla to Camby, and currently Hickson. Heck, even Oden in his limited time here if you look at how well he rebounded the ball in his limited minutes.

    We've never seen Aldridge have to take the role of being a dominate rebounder and I'm not sure if Leonard can be that guy too, and it won't look good since both like to be out on the perimeter.

    Now, Hickson and Leonard make more sense as a lineup than Leonard and Aldridge if you don't count defense. I really hope Neil Olshey is thinking the same thing too when looking at the free agency market this summer.

    BTW, we better resign Maynor and look at either drafting a defensive minded, shot blocking and rebounding type center, or sign one with the cap space we have. That would be huge. Too bad we didn't make a run at either Asik or Ramon Sessions in the first place; especially since Sessions had no problem from going from starting on the Lakers to being a reserve on the Bobcats. It would have a better situation for Sessions here than in Charlotte and Lillard would have had the help he needed in the ball handling department all season... imagine the numbers he would have had if you look at the numbers he had since Maynor arrived.

    The Sessions one is something I wished for at one point last summer if we didn't get Steve Nash (I had this idea that we needed to draft Lillard and sign Nash to mentor him), and once that wasn't going to happen and I'm fine with it, then Sessions was it.

    But one thing that hindsight bit me on is how we should have we after Asik instead of Hibbert. It would have been cheaper and look at how it was easier to get him from the Bulls than it was Hibbert from the Pacers. And look at the affect Asik had with the Rockets this season.

    Oh and FYI: The Blazers drafted Asik and then immediately traded him to the Bulls. I guess the Bulls needed to get back at us when we did the same thing with Aldridge to them.

    by Shem on 4/4/2013 12:11 AM
  4. Shem;
    You are on the money.
    I believe Olshey is on the same track.

    by the golden ladder on 4/4/2013 6:47 AM
  5. I hear all the conversation about getting rid of JJ but that is a serious mistake on many counts. He is our only pure energy. Wes can get things going when he wants but the rest hang back.

    by allie-oop on 4/4/2013 7:02 AM
  6. Shem: We really don't know about Leonard yet. He is still plenty young and can learn Defense and shot blocking. Remember he was a guard until he had sudden growth, (Growth Hormones?).

    I don't look at what could have been with different choices, Asik; I just look at what we need, but since I see Leonard as two years out yet, I agree with you on going after a rebounding and shot blocking center, if we can find one. If we do then Leonard and JJ could come in with the second unit, and the new center could play with LMA.

    The second unit of Maynor, hopefully, EWill, Clavor, JJ, and Leonard would give us a better bench, or if we don't keep JJ maybe Freeland and Leonard would work as the forwards and center.


    by Hg on 4/4/2013 9:11 AM
  7. @allie-oop: It's not about getting rid of Hickson. It's about what Hickson wants and he's going to be an unrestricted free agent. And from what I can gather from the information Chris Haynes has provided (and I trust Haynes) is that Hickson wants to be on a team where he is a starting PF and that's not going to be the Blazers since we have Aldridge.

    My ideal situation would be to get Hickson back at the price he is being paid now and he has no problem coming off the bench. Just don't expect that to happen.

    And the problem with Hickson is that he is playing center and he's undersized for it. So there isn't going to be much shot blocking and his weakness is defense and it's killing us as teams can attack the paint at will against us and that has to be corrected.

    @Hg: You're right, Leonard a mystery in terms of how he'll turn out. But from what I'm seeing, he's not the right guy to start next to Aldridge. I have no problem with him from what I've seen from him as a guy coming off the bench and giving solid production.

    And you're right about his crazy growth spurt and what to expect. But then again Anthony Davis had the exact same thing happen to him and he's a dominate rebounder and shot blocker. It's all about personality and what strengths they'll bring and that doesn't seem to be Leonard's thing.

    So this off season it has to be as priority to get a center, not a PF who you plug in as a center like we did this season. And this center has to be a guy who has a talent at getting rebounds and knows how to anchor a defense. We're not going to win next year if we don't get that and we're going to have a season like this one happen again.

    by Shem on 4/4/2013 11:30 AM
  8. A competent center. Rebounder-shot blocker. We have plenty of scoring.
    A solid wing player in reserve. We have too many tweeners.
    At least one legitimate scoring threat on the bench.

    by Divotking on 4/4/2013 2:38 PM
  9. Is LA or Batum playing tonight ....... Hi HG how are you

    by LA 2012 on 4/5/2013 9:04 AM
  10. LMA said he was going to give it a try.

    Haven't heard on Batum

    Going good, hoping for a Blazer win. We need it.

    by Hg on 4/5/2013 4:17 PM
  11. Another loss. Tough sledding. Missing Nic's all around production. Will showed some flashes. Play it out. Finish strong.

    by Divotking on 4/6/2013 4:29 PM
  12. It's become obvious that JJ isn't the center we need (no defense or shot blocking) and, given that LMA probably isn't going anywhere anytime soon, JJ will likely play elsewhere next season. He can command more than PDX wants to pay a backup PF.

    I didn't know about Meyers Leonard being a guard before a growth spurt but now that makes sense -- he seems far more comfortable to me facing the basket than playing with his back to it. I still figure him for a PF down the road. The way he runs the floor, he could be a great one, a la Dirk Nowitski.

    I agree we need to keep Eric Maynor. Not only because he fits in so well with our ROY, but as insurance against Dame getting injured. That leaves a starting center as a high priority. I don't see any in this year's draft so it's gotta be an FA,
    or a trade.

    Sacrilege alert! Please don't read farther if you own an assault rifle:

    No one here has mentioned it, but I'll take the leap: what about trading LMA for a starting center and a good bench player, keeping JJ as our PF, and having Leonard backup both C and PF? The team's makeup at the moment doesn't seem to work long-term. We have no true center except Jeffries; we will never become a great team without interior defense; and LMA will never be worth more than he is now.

    Fire away, I'm ducking for cover...
    --
    don

    by dgpdx on 4/7/2013 12:05 AM
  13. Oh, and keep that Spanish kid too, he's got an NBA future.
    --
    don

    by dgpdx on 4/7/2013 12:07 AM
  14. Don: I won't shoot you for your opinions, because you are entitled to your opinions, regardless of being ridiculous☺☺☺☻.

    I like Shem's ideas of going after a true rebounding, shot blocking center, and at least throughout Leonard's rookie contract use him as a back up center and back up PF; I don't feel we should trade LMA and keep JJ as LMA can also block shots rebound and play good D, high and low. Joel is a banger and a low post threat, let him and Leonard play together and LMA and a certified center play together; when LMA needs a blow we can put Leonard in with the new center having a twin tower effect.

    Since Leonard is young, I also feel, he can learn to play the rebounding back to the basket and shot blocking center. Defense, ???????. Last game when guards were driving, I watched him side step and stick his arm out to stop the drive, again ???????.

    To say the least, I won't get my assault rifle out, but you should consider washing your mouth out with some awful tasting stuff for such a outlandish statement ☺

    by Hg on 4/7/2013 4:57 AM
  15. undoubtedly, it's been a rough week for us. i love how LaMarcus said he would give it try, then came out with the game he had friday night. for much of the game, it was the Rockets vs. LaMarcus.i don't even want to think about the final score had we not had him in the linuep.

    whether Nicolas plays again this season, i'm not too concerned either way. i'd love to see him out there, but it also advantageous for him to sit out and just heal his wrist and once and for all. he know he's planning on playing with the french team this summer. my hope is that he comes back next season fully healed and able to go. it would be strange to face the Lakers on wednesday with both teams missing their starting small forwards. who knows though, maybe we'll see Nicolas after all.

    @dgpdx: your LaMarcus trade idea is interesting, but i honestly don't think we could get enough quality in return for a player of LaMarcus' caliber. i'm thinking the center in such a trade would have to be at least a notch above Roy Hibbert, since I think LaMarcus is a couple notches above him. what i'd like us to avoid is parting with a guy of LaMarcus' caliber for a center of lower qualification and some other pieces thrown in that we probably would just waive anyway. to me, that's an unequal trade. i'd hope that we avoid some of that. however, i like your post-trade idea of the three-man rotation at the pf and center positions, with a little Claver thrown in when we want to go small. speaking of Victor ... i wholeheartedly agree that we need to keep him. he definitely has a future in the nba. additionally, i agree about keeping Eric for both the depth reasons you listed and his ability to match up with Damian on the court.

    @Hg: i'm still not sold on Meyers not being the center of the future. i don't think he'll get there next season, but he's shown a lot of promise that he can get there. i would love us to get a big defensive minded, shot-blocking center for a couple of years, and i would have loved to for us to have obtained a guy like Asik (who we originally drafted). overall though, i like our options and more than in several off-seasons past, i trust our general manager to make progress this off-season in obtaining the right guys to help our team.

    to everyone: i know he's a veteran and doesn't need developmental time, but if we want to actually win some games, we need to play Jared. as Don said, he's our one true center and could very much help us in several situations. then again, i don't suppose any of you want me to get into my criticism of Stotts' rotations again, do you?

    ~ KMM

    by Kassandra on 4/7/2013 11:02 AM
  16. @Hg: Thanks for the advice, I'll consider it if I can find a nice tasting soap.
    The problem with "going after a true rebounding, shot-blocking center" is this: there aren't many of those out there and the teams that have them aren't going to let them go without getting full value in return. Who do we have that we could give in return for a potential championship-quality center? Looks to me like that's LMA, Batum, or Lillard. I'm sure we all hope Neil Olshey can get a guy like that during FA for cash only, but that's hoping for a lot. Probably our best shot at FA is Al Jefferson, not that he wouldn't be a nice get.

    @Kass: If we couldn't get an excellent center and a bench player who could play right away for LMA, I wouldn't make the deal. I'm willing to bet teams needing a true PF are looking at LMA and making offers. You never know, someone may make an offer we can't refuse. What about Marcin Gortat, Markieff Morris, and a high draft pick from Phoenix?
    --
    don

    by dgpdx on 4/7/2013 3:46 PM
  17. @Don, I was thinking of Big Al, or Gortat, I heard that Utah may have to get rid of players, maybe Big Al is one, I heard that Phoenix was going to blow up the team and if Gortat is on the trading block he could be picked up and the other one is the big Guy from Minny although I don't think they would trade him. Maybe we could get one of Detroit's bigs for something we have.

    I just think that JJ is going for big bucks, and he is not as good as LMA, so to get a top notch center and lose a superstar PF according to NBA-TV crew. would be trading apples for oranges with very little value improvement.

    I still believe Leonard is a starting Center of the future, and like Kassandra maybe two years out. OTOH, I can visualize two Dirks on the floor at the same time, maybe we couldn't protect the rim but we could sure drive the opponents crazy, Plus we could get batum to block more shots.

    by Hg on 4/7/2013 4:13 PM
  18. Don;
    LMA has come of age. His rebounding is better. He plays strong. He is no longer a soft player. He is only one of two players we have that can get his own shot. Lillard the other one. Everyone else must play off of somebody. LMA is 27 years old (I think). Dirk didn't win his until he was 32. We need to stay with LaMarcus. He can't do it on his own. We are not that far away. Despite the ugly play of recent games. Lillard will not be a rookie. Next year will be Batum's best year. LaMarcus will be a well seasoned vet. He will dominate the rest of the leagues power forwards.
    I feel what we need is a serviceable center. You mentioned big Al from utah. Something like that would work. There are others available.
    We do need a solid wing player. Matthews is my favorite Blazer. Has been for a while. However I think he is our answer to the 6th man. If we had a 2 guard that put stress on the opposing defense it would open up a lot of things. Maybe Batum is our 2 guard. Maybe a big chunk of our money goes to a small forward.
    Whatever the case, our core group is going to be successful. We can't just add pieces to add pieces.
    My vote is let's ride this out with the big fella. See where it takes us.

    by Divotking on 4/7/2013 6:39 PM
  19. Finally something to cheer about. Guess who's starting in Wesley's place against the Lakers. Mr. Barton. Run Kobe all over Will.

    by Divotking on 4/7/2013 7:25 PM
  20. @Divotking: We've tried bringing Wes off the bench and it didn't work well. He seems to thrive on being a starter. I'm not really advocating trading LMA, just pointing out the possibility that it could be to our benefit if the right deal came along. I hesitate to label anyone as off-the-table.

    After tonight, I can see WillTheThrill Barton as a swingman between SF and SG getting about 30 minutes a game. I love the style of ball we were playing during the comeback! Wide open, not forcing any one particular play, taking what was there to be taken. With the raw talent we've got, I think that style of play fits our team best.
    --
    don

    by dgpdx on 4/7/2013 8:53 PM
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