Live from the Rose Garden as the Portland Trail Blazers welcome the Memphis Grizzlies. A visit from Memphis used to signal an easy victory for Portland, but this Grizzlies team is on a winning streak and teetering on the cusp of going over .500 for the first time in four seasons. Memphis is lead by all-star Zach Randolph—no, seriously—who is having a career year and looks nothing like the blob of empty points and rebounds that anchored the Blazers for so many years. Adjust your headbands, here we go...
Welcome back LaMarcus Aldridge. Now that you're back the Blazers will no longer have to make up player names just to form a roster. Patty Mills? That's fake, right? Wasn't she in the Parent Trap? Aldridge—the Blazers' second best player—sprained his ankle on December 30th and has been out since. He is listed as "probable" tonight and should see limited minutes.
Despite a comically-depleted roster, and last night's defeat in Los Angeles to the Clippers, the Blazers are still tied for first place in the Northwest Division. It hasn't been pretty, but the team has held it together with a style of play akin to a cornered dog with a foaming mouth. This hasn't been the storybook season we all imagined, but all things considered it's just impressive the team hasn't folded from lack of warm bodies.
Aldridge was just announced as the starter. He wasn't booed like Z-Bo was.
11:04 - Roy gets mowed over by a speeding Marc Gasol and he spends a few painful seconds on the court. I think everyone here has seen enough Blazers withering on the hardwood to last a lifetime. He seems a little roughed up, but stays in the game. 3-2 Memphis.
9:41- I get that Zach Randolph wasn't the most popular Blazer, but it seems that every time he returns here he gets booed more and more. He doesn't deserve that, he wasn't a villain. 5-4 Memphis.
7:09 - Andre Miller just plowed through Mike Conley for no real reason. No whistle, too. Someone should make an animates GIF of that. It will be more popular than the one of Snooki from the Jersey Shore getting punched. 9-9 tie.
3:49 - I'm excited to see the Jeff Pendergraph vs. Marc Gasol—two heavyweights enter, only one will leave— matchup. It's the first real powerful center that the rookie has gone up against. Then again, within seconds of entering the game, Pendergraph commits a terrible foul against Gasol. 18-16 Memphis.
1:45 - Roy hits a corner three. He only has a pair of makes tonight, but it's a superior start than last night's six point performance. 22-21 Memphis.
0:14 - Bayless with a steal and coast-to-coast layup. They trailed almost the entire quarter, but that basket puts the home team ahead at the break. 25-24 Blazers.
10:55 - Memphis' current lineup features two seven-footers, Gasol and rookie Hasheem Thabeet. Evidently all that height couldn't stop Aldridge from completing an alley-oop dunk. They have two more seven-footers on the bench (!), so maybe they should just play all four at the same time. 29-24 Blazers.
9:26 - With Steve Blake getting some chicken soup for his Pneumonia-riddled soul, Andre Miller has been playing his best ball of the season. He leads all players with ten points, plus has two assists and four rebounds as well. 35-32 Blazers.
7:16 - Bayless to Webster, three points. Roy to Webster, three more points. Speaking of playing their best ball of the season (if not career), Webster is averaging over 20 points in the last three games. If he keeps this up, make that four games. 41-32 Blazers.
5:08 - In a season full of—mostly bad—surprises, Juwan Howard remains the biggest shocker to me. He's been holding his own against a much bigger/stronger/younger/uglier Gasol, and still has the pep to finish a fastbreak layup as well. 47-41 Blazers.
3:17 - Bad ankle and all, Aldridge swats a Z-Bo jumper into the seats. Not that Randolph is known for his jumping ability, but still... 50-45 Blazers.
1:29 - Roy takes another blocking call and ends up on his back. He is now out of the game getting some (hamstring?) treatment on the bench. It never ends. 54-54 tie.
0:46 - Aldridge hits a short turnaround jumper after nearly losing the ball in the process. He had it pinned against his hip before shooting. That was impressive. 58-56 Blazers.
10:05 - Webster stays hot from the deep corner. Tonight he passed Derek Anderson and is now 7th in franchise history in three-pointers made. A few more and he passes 'Sheed. 66-59 Blazers.
8:20 - Webster then airballs a three. Not sure where he ranks all-time when it comes to airballs. Um, let's say 34th. 66-65 Blazers.
5:14 - Miller comes up with a tenacious rebound, which he then tips to Aldridge for a fastbreak dunk. He probably couldn't have done that while wearing his protective boot. 73-69 Blazers.
4:04 - Howard gets whistled for a flagrant for smacking a running Gasol during a fastbreak. The call was legit, despite the crowd's reaction. 76-73 Memphis.
3:38 - Well, that lead went away quickly. Memphis just reeled off a 8-0 run. 80-73 Memphis.
1:27 - Miller with his ninth rebound, but he doesn't keep the ball long, quickly passing to Roy for a dunk. The Blazers look stagnant with the ball and definitely needed that jolt of offense. 84-79 Memphis.
0:00 - Tough quarter for the home team. The bad news, the Grizzlies now have an eight point lead. The good news? Doug E. Fresh is in the house. 87-79 Memphis.
11:34 - It's foul Marc Gasol has hard as humanly possible night. Pendergraph is the latest to pound the Memphis center, so much so that Gasol clanks both from the charity stripe. 87-81 Memphis.
10:52 - Webster. Three. Corner. Timeout Grizzlies. 87-84 Memphis.
10:14 - Pendergraph with a tip-in of a Roy miss, and it's now a one point game. 87-86 Memphis.
9:09 - Webster adds some variety and knocks down a jumper that isn't a three. Tie game. Following a Grizz miss, Howard's layup gives Portland the lead. Commence Memphis timeout and in-arena YMCA dancing. 91-89 Blazers.
7:15 - Webster dribbled around the entire key, then randomly turns and heaves up a three. Nothing but net. Unbelievable. 93-92 Blazers.
5:58 - 21 for Webster, which means he just hit one more three. That's five on the night. Other stat highlights include nine assists for Roy, and ten boards for Miller. 98-96 Blazers.
3:57 - Few players can get 22 points and 12 rebounds (and counting) quieter than Z-Bo. I've barely notice him score, and his touches are so anonymous that the crowd has stopped booing him. 104-99 Blazers.
2:20 - Of course, Randolph with a big tip-in right after I type that. The lead is down to a single basket. 104-101 Blazers.
1:33 - Back-to-back misses, but the Blazers get rare offensive rebounds, yet still fail to convert. Z-Bo goes down with what looks like a horrific knee injury—even ex-players are not safe from the curse—but he is able to get up, and get fouled while shooting. He makes only one from the line. 104-102 Blazers.
0:30 - Pendergraph makes a rookie mistake by passing one too many times under the basket, which results in a steal and fastbreak layup from OJ Mayo. Tie game. Time to pick up the red phone and call Brandon Roy. 104-104.
0:21 - Really tough call, but Roy is whistled for a loose ball foul, sending Mayo to the line. He makes the first. He misses the second. Wow. 105-104 Memphis. Portland with the ball, less than 20 seconds on the clock, and a chance to win.
0:09 - They go with the hot hand, but Webster misses a three from the corner. Gasol with the rebound and he is fouled. Howard fouls out on the play. Gasol makes the first. He misses the second! 106-104 Memphis
0:04 - Bayless fouled on the way to the rim, and now on the line with a chance to tie. These are the biggest shots of his young career. He misses the first. He makes the second. 106-105 Memphis. Portland needs a steal, missed free-throws from Memphis, or a miracle right now. They have no time-outs left.
0:03 - Miller quickly fouls Mayo, free-throw time. He makes the first. He the misses the second, but Roy loses the ball out of bounds. What an anti-climatic way to end this game. We're so used to Roy's heroics at the end of games, it's almost shocking when he doesn't come through. 107-105 Memphis.
0:00 - And that will do it. Really tough loss for the Blazers. It's going to be a long week—Kobe on Friday, Lebron on Sunday—and this was not an ideal outcome for Portland. Two losses in a week, and with Denver's victory tonight, first place is no longer theirs as well. Your final score, Memphis 109, Portland 105. See you Friday.