Revenge in the air?
The Portland Trail Blazers have officially become the most difficult team in the NBA to predict. After defeating the San Antonio Spurs by 30 points, they fell by two to the worst team in the Western Conference—the New Orleans Hornets.
Matchup: Portland (29-33) vs. Memphis Grizzlies (42-19)
Venue: Rose Garden Arena
Time: 7:00 PM PT
Date: Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Nobody quite knows what to expect at this point in the season, but if Portland can play up to its competition on Tuesday, the Memphis Grizzlies could be in for a surprise at the Rose Garden Arena.
Game Notes/How They Match Up
The Blazers face the Grizzlies less than a week ago, and while a 5-point loss to a top team out West is respectable, it proved to be one of the more demoralizing defeats of the season.
Portland got off to a hot start against Memphis, as it played an excellent first half. Unfortunately, it gave back every bit of that lead to the home team, and when it came time to execute late, Memphis was the group that took over.
The Grizzlies put together an 11-1 run to pull ahead by four with 21 seconds to go. Portland could never recover, and one of the biggest wins of the year evaporated.
What to Watch: Portland
If the Blazers’ most recent matchup with the Grizzlies taught us anything, it’s that this young team must learn how to play for 48 minutes.
After taking a 12-point lead into halftime, the Blazers scored just 35 points the entire second half. They were outscored by 18 in the final 24 minutes, and that’s a recipe for disaster against any team in the league.
But this is nothing we haven’t known practically all season. Once upon a time, Portland was winning close games, but only because it forced massive comebacks after falling behind early.
This team has struggled finishing games since about the midway point, and it’s going to be one of the biggest reasons they struggle making the postseason.
What to Watch: Memphis
The Memphis Grizzlies are one of the hottest teams in the NBA coming into this contest. They’ve won 12 of their last 13 games, they’re pushing for the No. 3 spot in the conference and they’re doing it all with incredible defense.
The Grizzlies are holding opponents to an unreal 84.7 points per game over their last nine contests. This team is playing with a defensive mindset that is virtually unmatched, and they’ve officially come together under head coach Lionel Hollins.
But as dominant as this team’s record has been as of late, you have to recognize that the they’re not going to put up a ton of points. Their offense is averaging just 93.7 points per game on the season, so if you can excel on one side of the ball, you’re going to challenge them down to the final seconds.
The last time the Blazers played against the Grizzlies, Zach Randolph was out with an ankle injury. His health is still up in the air entering Tuesday, but with status being upgraded to “probable,” you have to look at the battle at the 4-spot.
LaMarcus Aldridge and Randolph are All-Stars, and they’re often times the No. 1 options on their respective teams. Randolph is a better rebounder, and likely will be for the rest of their careers; but LaMarcus Aldridge is a better defender and has a much more consistent game when it comes to shooting the ball.
Remember, Aldridge used to play backup to Randolph. The former Blazer has gone on to do great things in Memphis, but his departure opened the door for Aldridge to become one of the best forwards that the league has to offer.
If Randolph is unable to play, look to the center position for the game’s key matchup. The last time J.J. Hickson and Marc Gasol faced off, the two big men combined for 35 points, 25 rebounds and three blocks, as they both pride themselves on doing the dirty work from the game’s opening tip.
Memphis: DAY-TO-DAY—Darrell Arthur, PROBABLE—Zach Randolph
With Memphis’ defense on a tear, it’s difficult to project a high-scoring game on Tuesday. That being said, the Rose Garden crowd will be cheering with a sense of urgency, and the Blazers’ starters should thrive if their energy stays high from start to finish.