Trail Blazers vs Grizzlies Wednesday, 04/03/13 AT 07:00PM

Trail Blazers Start Final Homestand Against Tough Grizzlies

  1. Written by: erikgundersen  / avg. rating: 5.0


    On Wednesday evening the Trail Blazers (33-41) will kick of their final extended period of home games for the 2012-2013 season against the Memphis Grizzlies (50-24). Tip-off is set for 7PM and will be shown on CSNNW and can be heard on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM.

        •    In the midst of a five-game losing streak, the playoffs should be the last thing on the minds of the Trail Blazers. The best thing they can do is focus on trying to beat Memphis and end the last eight games of the season on a high note. After Monday's loss in Utah, Wesley Matthews emphasized the development of good habits down the stretch as ending the season in a funk is not the way you want to do it, especially given how many great moments this season has had already. Wednesday gives them not only an opportunity to snap the losing streak but it also gives them another chance to get one back against an elite Western Conference team that has had their number in the last two meetings. Whether the Trail Blazers will have LaMarcus Aldridge is also an uncertainty they will have to deal with. Joe Freeman of the Oregonian said on last night's Trail Blazers Courtside last night that Aldridge is "listed as questionable" for Wednesday's game.
      •    In early January when the Grizzlies still had Rudy Gay, the Trail Blazers were able grind out one of their best road wins of the season. Nicolas Batum played great defense against Gay down the stretch and LaMarcus Aldridge and Marc Gasol did equally great jobs protecting their team's basket. In the second meeting, the Trail Blazers jumped out to a 12-point halftime lead but the Grizzlies offense picked up in the second half and their defense kept the Trail Blazers from getting quality shots. In their meeting in Portland only weeks ago, the Grizzlies were shutting down the Trail Blazers for most of the game until Portland exploded in the fourth quarter with Eric Maynor, Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge stepping up big. Aldridge bounced back nicely after studying Memphis' defense putting together one of his best performances scoring 28 points against Memphis's vaunted defense mostly being guarded by a leading candidate for Defensive Player of the Year in Marc Gasol. Whether the Trail Blazers have Aldridge or not, containing Mike Conley or Jerryd Bayless off the dribble and trying to find ways to slow down Gasol's plays at the elbow will be key. The Trail Blazers have done well against the Grizz when they can get out in transition and the only way they can do that is by getting stops first.
      •    The Trail Blazers have got to figure out a way to get loose on the perimeter. Damian Lillard did a fantastic job of the getting into the lane and helping the Trail Blazers give themselves a chance late with 27 points and seven assists in the last meeting. However, what the Grizzlies did to really hurt Portland's offense was that they closed out hard on the three-point shot, running Portland's shooters off the line. Threes are an integral part of successful NBA offenses but it is especially true for the Trail Blazers. Lillard, Matthews and Batum are the second trio of teammates since the three-point line was introduced in 1979 to make 165 three-pointers in a season and the Trail Blazers average 23.3 attempts per game game. In the last meeting, they took only 16 three-pointers and it hurt their offense. Finding ways to create open looks from three for the above three as well as Eric Maynor (41 percent) and Victor Claver has been shooting a decent 33 percent from the corners and 37 percent from the three-point area deems "above the break." The Trail Blazers were without Claver the last time but he performed well in their second meeting in Memphis with four points a steal and a block.
     •    If LaMarcus Aldridge is once again out, Wednesday presents another opportunity for Meyers Leonard to get extended minutes learning how to play against some of the elite bigs in the NBA in Gasol and Randolph. Even Ed Davis is the type of player who can give anybody trouble in the post and if Aldridge is out, Leonard will likely get 36-plus minutes against Memphis. The last meeting on March 12th was Leonard's first game back after missing a game with a sprained ankle and the Memphis bigs went off for a big night. Gasol (20 points), Z-Bo (19 points, 10 rebounds) and Davis (14 points nine rebounds) all helped Memphis get off to a great start with each scoring in double figures in the first half. Afterwards, Leonard expressed the challenge that Memphis' present saying that he needs more reps against bigs like Memphis has saying "it's not easy to be completely honest, those guys are really good." Leonard has continued to show improvement over his recent stretch of games on the offensive end and there will be no better task than facing the talented bigs of Memphis once again. It will also be a great challenge for Joel Freeland as well, who has seen his minutes increase as of late. Memphis will not be looking to rollover as they are locked in the battle for the third seed in the Western Conference along with the Clippers (49-26) and Nuggets (50-24).  

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