Live from the Moda Center as the Portland Trail Blazers host the grit and grind Memphis Grizzlies.
Don’t sleep on Memphis. Their record says .500, but their play says they’re still planet smashers. Since the return of defensive lynchpin Marc Gasol, the Grizzlies have vaulted their way back into the upper echelon of defensive teams in the league. Grit and grind, indeed.
It’s not quite an unflappable system yet, but Memphis has slowly shaped an identity as a hard, tough, smash mouth basketball team. Their players are put in positions to succeed, journeymen are buying in, and with smart people like
Justin Timberlake John Hollinger working behind the scenes the foundation has been set for years of success.
The work they have done revitalizing Zach Randolph is proof enough that there’s some magic in the BBQ in Memphis. I’d say the magic was in the water in Memphis, but having never been there I just assume that the Mississippi turns into BBQ sauce once you cross into county lines.
The Blazers just had a dud of a game, a fifteen point blowout at the hands of the Golden State Warriors. The defense actually was not the problem—it was the offense that completely stalled. The Blazers suffered through a twelve-point third quarter and failed to reach 90 points in a game for the first time this year. LaMarcus Aldridge, guarded by Sloan Conference punchline David Lee, shot 2-14 from the floor.
That’s two stinkers in a row for Aldridge after his 44 point explosion on TNT last Thursday. Going against the frontline of doom is no way to get back on track, either. All LaMarcus has to look forward to in this game is an ice bath afterwards. Gasol and Randolph don’t bluff.
The Blazers players chalked their loss in Oakland up to being one of those games, but man was it rough. Hopefully their memories are short—they’ll need to forget that one and move on quickly. It will be tough to do much of anything if Nicolas Batum is hobbled, though. Nic injured his ankle two weeks back, and it was bad enough after the Oakland game that he needed to get an MRI to make sure there wasn't any structural damage in there. It came back negative (all together now: WHEW!), so he's going to give it a go tonight.
It's apparently Timbers night here at the Moda Center. I know nothing about sports that don't involve the use of your hands, so let us never speak of the footie again.
WOAH! Robin Lopez got to pick the pre-game music tonight, and he went with "Adam Raised a Cain" by Bruce Springsteen! As if he needed another reason to endear himself to the Portland population.
11:42 - Mike Conley with the first bucket of the game. He has been killing it this season. When Gasol went down, Conley took a huge step forward. He won't make the All-Star team—the West is too loaded at guard—but he deserves consideration. 2-0 Grizzlies.
10:10 - Welp, just like that, the Blazers are down by eight, Z-Bo leading the way with six points of his own. Terry Stotts needs time to calm his team down. 8-0 Grizzlies.
9:24 - LaMarcus stops the bleeding with the first Blazers field goal of the game. And then some soccer fans threw confetti? I don't understand your ways, Timbers Army. 10-2 Grizzlies.
8:03 - At least Aldridge came ready to play. He's got all seven Portland points thus far. The rest of the Blazers have about thirty turnovers each. 12-7 Grizzlies.
6:43 - Someone other than Aldridge finally scores (thanks, Lillard), but it's still just a two man game for Portland. All five Memphis starters are on the board thus far. 15-11 Grizzlies.
3:46 - Batum's ankle appears to be doing just fine. Two possessions in a row he ran the animated corpse of Tayshaun Prince off a simple screen and drove right to the hoop for an easy lay-in. I could probably drive past Prince at this point, but it's still good to see Nic being aggressive and taking it right to the rack. 21-17 Grizzlies.
3:13 - The boxscore says LaMarcus has missed a shot tonight, but I don't think that's true. Every single one of his jumpers is down without grazing the rim. He is feeling it to the tune of thirteen early points. 21-19 Grizzlies.
1:30 - James Johnson just demolished the rim on a put-back dunk in traffic. That was legit. He must have been reading his own press on Grantland today. 26-22 Grizzlies.
0:00 - Rough final minute there for the Blazers who got out-worked on the boards. The Grizz did their grittin' and grindin' thing, got a couple of extra possessions off their own misses, and just out-worked Portland. Things were within two there a couple of minutes ago. 31-22 Grizzlies.
11:10 - Did CJ McCollum not watch any of the last two NBA Finals? You don't leave Mike Miller alone behind the three-point line. Ever. 34-25 Grizzlies.
9:57 - Memphis is putting the clamps on and ratcheting up their defense. I'm not worried about Portland's offense. Yet. 38-25 Grizzlies.
9:00 - If the Blazers wanted to make the Grizzlies look like they have a good offense, they are doing a pretty good job of it. Memphis is getting whatever they want, most due to Mike Conley picking things apart with excellent pick and rolls. Portland needs Aldridge back in this game in the worst way. 43-29 Grizzlies.
7:32 - Mo Williams? More like No Williams, amirite?! The Blazers PG just bricked a contested twenty-two footer, and had the worst turnover of the night by passing it right to Mike Conley for an open breakaway dunk. 45-31 Grizzlies.
6:12 - Hmm, if Sunday night against the Warriors was one of those nights, what does this make tonight? Two blowouts in a row is not a good trend. The Blazers need to get this one back to within single digits by the end of the half. 50-33 Grizzlies.
3:39 - The Grizzlies are 4-6 from deep, the Blazers are 0-7. The Grizzlies are shooting 63% from the floor, the Blazers...are not. Portland deserves a red card for this performance. 57-39 Grizzlies.
1:51 - Just when the Blazers appeared to have a little momentum, LaMarcus missed a gimmie at the rim and the Grizzlies are going the other way. That sucked the air out of this place. 57-43 Grizzlies.
1:10 - Hey, there's your momentum! A steal and a slam for Batum! 57-45 Grizzlies.
0:30 - Uh, so momentum doesn't exist. Just when the Blazers appeared be finally chipping away at the this lead, the Grizzlies got a basket and a steal and another basket. That was a huge four point swing for the road team, just as the Blazers were getting back into this one. 61-45 Grizzlies.
0:00 - Fifteen points is somewhat manageable, especially when Portland finally showed some signs of life there towards the end of the quarter. Someone better have a screaming fit in the locker room and get this team fired up for the second half. 61-46 Grizzlies.
11:45 - Blazers strike first on a put back by Robin Lopez. A good sign for things to come? 61-48 Grizzlies.
9:16 - Both teams are playing sloppy here early. On the plus side, the hot shooting of Memphis has finally cooled off. But the Blazers can't capitalize, as their shooting woes have carried over from the first half. 65-50 Grizzlies.
7:18 - Robin Lopez should never be the second highest scorer on your team. He's got 12 points, trailing only Aldridge's 17 points, and no other Blazers player is in double digits yet. Ugh. 69-51 Grizzlies.
6:09 - Wesley Matthews just did a full on Superman dive to try and save a loose ball from going out of bounds. Laid out, full extension, everything, but the refs called it out of bounds to the Grizzlies. At least the hustle was there. 69-51 Grizzlies.
5:42 - Memphis coach Dave Joerger pronounces his last name like the robots. I'm going to quit watching this game and live blog Pacific Rim instead. That seems like a much more enjoyable experience. 71-53 Grizzlies.
5:05 - Kaiju! Nope, sorry, that's just Z-Bo doing work in the paint. 73-53 Grizzlies.
3:12 - Robin Lopez is the only Portland player to score this quarter. He has seven points. 75-53 Grizzlies.
2:40 - Desperation, thy name is Meyers Leonard. 77-53 Grizzlies.
1:14 - After five quick points from LaMarcus Aldridge, coach Joerger needs
to mind meld time. An aggressive timeout, to be sure, because there is no way Portland is getting back into this one. 77-58 Grizzlies.
0:16 - The Blazers look like the team that lost thirteen straight to end last year. Nick Calathes just had an unimpeded lane to the basket for the easiest lay-in of the night.
0:00 - After that last missed three-pointer at the buzzer from CJ McCollum, the Blazers are 0-12 from deep for the night. Brutal. 81-58 Grizzlies.
11:27 - Finally! The first three of the night goes to Dame. Even better, Meyers Leonard was fouled away from the ball so Portland picked up a four point play. Only need five more four point plays and Portland will be right back in this one! 81-62 Grizzlies.
9:17 - Leave it to Portland to try and make a blowout interesting. They are getting stops, but just need to do a better job on the offensive end—they are still scuffling, and can't quite get any traction on consecutive possessions. 81-65 Grizzlies.
8:44 - Fans are headed for the exits. Marc Gasol got Meyers Leonard on an up and under move for an easy three-point play, and then drew a charge on Damian Lillard on the next possession. Portland is out of time. I blame the Timbers. 84-65 Grizzlies.
7:11 - Wesley Matthews hits a three. Mike Conley hits a three right after. So it goes. 89-68 Grizzlies.
6:00 - Batum is hobbled. Lillard looks to be favoring his wrist a bit. It's time to pull the starters. This one is over. 89-72 Grizzlies.
5:00 - Damian Lillard hits a three. Mike Miller hits a three right after. I think I've seen this story before. 94-75 Grizzlies.
3:20 - Aldridge has 27 points and 15 rebounds. At least he's getting his tonight. The same can't be said for the rest of the Blazers. 94-78 Grizzlies.
1:32 - The jumbotron just went entirely black for a few seconds. That's how I feel too, jumbotron. That's how I feel too. 96-81 Grizzlies.
FINAL: 98-81 Grizzlies. In back to back games, the Blazers set their season low for points. Sunday it was 88, tonight it was 81. Ouch. It will be interesting to see if Portland's poor performance was more of a product of great Memphis defense, or more of a flaw in their offense. It feels like maybe it was more of the former than the latter, as the Grizzlies were locked in all night. The Blazers will have a few days to mull it over—their next game isn't until Saturday night at home against the Toronto Raptors.