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

Trail Blazers Go Cold From Deep Against Grizz

04/04/13
  1. Written by: erikgundersen  / avg. rating: 5.0

    BY ERIK GUNDERSEN

    The Portland Trail Blazers (33-42) struggled with their shots in the second half on their way to a rough 94-76 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies (51-24). JJ Hickson had a solid game for the Trail Blazers with 17 points and nine rebounds as they were without both Nicolas Batum and LaMarcus Aldridge.

    With a Memphis team coming into the Rose Garden fighting for playoff seeding (in a heated 3-4-5 battle with the Clippers and Nuggets) and a Trail Blazers team without two of their four leading scorers, it could have been a night for the Trail Blazers to roll over. With their playoff fate nearly set, the team is playing for pride. Also, this final stretch of the season has given Portland an opportunity to see what they've got with regards to their young players. However, Lillard stated in the team's shootaround that they didn't sign up to play "74, 75 games." Adding "we play 82 games and it's no reason that we should let a season that we've exceeded expectations just go to waste."

    Due to Batum's injury, tonight was the first night since 2009 (Greg Oden, Nicolas Batum and Rudy Fernandez) that the Trail Blazers started three rookies. Victor Claver (7 points, two rebounds) replaced Nico to start along side Meyers Leonard (10 points, seven rebounds) and Damian Lillard (17 points, six assists). Claver hit a three in the early going, but time would only tell the story of how rare those threes would become. Oden, interestingly enough was in attendance, watching his good friend Mike Conley of the Grizzlies play.

    "I was pleased with our offense in the first half and pleased with our defense in the second half," said Terry Stotts.

    The Grizzlies got off to a red hot start shooting 68 percent from the field and more or less controlling the pace to their liking. The Trail Blazers were able to answer back at times but they were not producing at a clip that could keep up at the rate Memphis shot. As such, the Trail Blazers found themselves down by 11 after one and found themselves fighting against that deficit all night long.

    Another problem for the Trail Blazers were turnovers, accumulating a high amount for the second consecutive game. They wound up with 19 turnovers (according to Basketball-Reference.com the Grizzlies force the second highest rate of turnovers in the NBA), which led to 20 Memphis points.

    "Diappointing. When you come out and have those three turnovers at the beginning of the second half, it's pretty deflating. I didn't think we executed, that we set screens that we came out with the right purpose at the beginning of the second half. And after that it got better, but you can't take anything for granted with your passes against Memphis," said Stotts.

    The Trail Blazers got the deficit down to seven halfway through the third but every attempt to get within a range to make the Grizzlies was thwarted by their 1-18 (4-29 for the game) three-point shooting in the second  half. A very stark contrast from their previous meeting when they were only able to take 16 threes. Tonight, they got their looks, but they just didn't fall.

    Eric Maynor brought energy and playmaking off the bench totaling 10 assists on the night and Joel Freeland had a nice outing in 17 minutes with 7 points, three rebounds and two steals. At this point in the season with so few games left and elimination from the playoff one Utah win away, Stotts wants to make sure he can continue to teach his young team that has already learned so much this season.

    "I want to take away some of the positives with the young guys playing," he said. "They only had 38 points in the paint which is a good sign for us. We kept battling. We didn't shoot the ball well in the second half and we were 1 for 18 on threes, so obviously that affected whatever run that we were trying to make in the second half."

    Derailed by turnovers and an off shooting night, the Trail Blazers were unable to make their comeback and unable to give themselves a shot towards the end. However, Portland's young players continue to get seasoning and Meyers Leonard had his fifth straight game scoring in double-figures.

    Matthews (12 points) hit his back on a monitor in the second half of the game and used it as an example of how the Trail Blazers had to finish the season the right way.

    "I'm always going to play hard. We're not playing for a playoff spot and I'm diving hitting my back on a monitor trying to keep a ball inbounds. I'm always going to play hard and that's what I expect this team to do. I expect everybody to sell out. It's a blessing that we get to play this game every day."

    The Trail Blazers will play that game once again against the Houston Rockets on Friday night who just got James Harden back from injury. Tip-off is set for 7:30 on ESPN and CSNNW. It can be heard on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM.



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