It would be easy to make an attempt to point to just one thing that
went wrong on Friday night at the Rose Garden, as the Blazers were
upset by the Memphis Grizzlies 106-96. But, it seemed a perfect storm
of problems derailed Portland early, and that was that. They did charge
back, and cut it to 8 points in the fourth quarter, but it was way too
little, way too late.
Going against the grain of opinion, I’m
going to first give credit to Memphis. That doesn’t absolve the Blazers
of responsibility, and we’ll get to that, but the Grizzlies earned this
They’ve been playing better, and with the addition of
Jamaal Tinsley, have clutch scorers to rely on. They are the youngest
team in the league (Portland is #3 on that list), but with Tinsley and
Zach Randolph they’ve got a veteran presence in there late in games.
There is some good talent in their first seven or eight, and I haven’t
yet figured why they haven’t had more success this season. Maybe this
is the kind of win that will jump start them. They should be a lot
better than their record. But, I also understand that it usually feels
that way after you lose to someone.
Now then, there’s nothing I
can write in this short blog that can explain the Blazers falling
behind a team like Memphis by 29 points in the first half (or falling
behind by 29 to anyone, for that matter- especially at home). The
amazing thing is, the Blazers didn’t initially get off to a bad start.
the first timeout of the game, the Blazers had a 15-11 lead, and
everything looked to be going as expected. They hit 6 of their first 12
shots, had 5 assists, were outrebounding Memphis 6 to 4, and only had
one turnover. This was at the 5:43 mark of the first quarter. After
that, and I mean immediately after that, things went south for the home
I can’t say I recall a 31-2 run, ever. The fact that it
came on Portland’s home floor, at the end of a successful home stand,
made it just about unthinkable. The Blazers went an astonishing 1 for
18 shooting during that run, and when it was over the score was 42-17.
The lead would grow as large as 29 in the first half.
this all the time, but digging out of a deep hole takes so much energy.
And, you basically have to dump the game plan you’ve worked on, and
change what you are in order to try and mount a charge. Still, we saw
Portland come from double-digits down 18 times last season to win, so
we knew a run was coming. A run big enough to erase the damage that had
been done in that first half? That was probably an unrealistic thought.
the second half, the Blazers were doing good things, and it appeared
momentum was starting to shift. But, most of the time they were simply
trading baskets. As Brandon Roy stated after the game, it was like the
team thought it could simply rely on offense to get them back in the
game. Problem was, Memphis didn’t exactly go ice cold, and kept things
in attack mode enough to hang on. I mean, 29 points is a big cushion.
Blazers had the crowd behind them in the fourth quarter, as they made
yet another charge. They had the Memphis lead chopped down to just 8
points, and had the ball, but turned it over. They would get no closer.
The Grizzlies, in dramatic fashion, snapped an 8-game losing skid to
Nate McMillan was obviously frustrated following
the game, and implied that he’s been concerned lately about energy and
focus at home. It was at the start of the home stand we saw the Blazers
build a 20-point lead on Detroit, only to see that lead shrink to 1,
before holding on for the win. He was still shaking his head when I
rode up the elevator with him after we'd arrived in Salt Lake City in
the middle of the night. I know when to start a conversation, and when
not to. I simply said, "get some sleep," knowing that was probably
asking too much.
As much as McMillan talked of worrisome
feelings going into this one, Memphis coach Lionel Hollins stated that
after the morning shootaround he felt something positive was happening,
and said he expected his team to show a ton of energy and confidence.
So, evidently, this storm was brewing long before tip off.
To listen to Nate's post-game comments, click here
we're in Utah now, which isn’t a good place to ever look to get back on
track. The Jazz just had their bad loss at home last week to Oklahoma
City, and then responded by taking apart Chicago on Thanksgiving night.
In other words, they’ve figured some things out. It won’t help that
this will be a back-to-back situation for Portland, and that Roy played
42 minutes and Aldridge 45 on Friday.
As I said following the
loss at Golden State a week ago, back-to-back situations are nice for
only one thing- getting a bad taste out of your mouth in a hurry. It
worked for the Blazers after that game. We’ll see if they’re able to
pull that off again.