Not exactly finishing strong
The Portland Trail Blazers have had both highs and lows throughout the 2012-13 season. The cliche at one point was that this team was exceeding expectations, but it has once again shown its youth and lack of depth with the year winding down.
Matchup: Portland (33-41) vs. Memphis Grizzlies (50-24)
Venue: Rose Garden Arena
Time: 7:00 PM PT
Date: Wednesday, April 1, 2013
Entering the contest against the Memphis Grizzlies, the Blazers have lost five straight. Nobody on this roster wants to quit, but you have to wonder just how motivated the team can be with the playoffs not-so-quietly slipping away.
Game Notes/How They Match Up
The Trail Blazers and the Grizzlies have played three times this season. Memphis has won two of the three outings, but all three have been decided by six points or fewer.
If Portland wants to avoid a series defeat, it needs a victory Wednesday night.
The Blazers have given up a lot of points as of late, which is something Memphis hasn’t been able to say all season. Over the last five contests, Portland has allowed 111.2 points per game, while the Grizzlies have allowed just 97.
Expect a physical matchup in the final game of the series, as Memphis knows how to play no other way.
What to Watch: Portland
The game plan Wednesday night couldn’t be more simple. Memphis allows just 90 points per game, which is good enough for second in the league, and if the Blazers have a chance at winning, they have to put the ball in the bucket.
Portland has to set a goal, and it’s going to be a tough one to reach. When Memphis allows 100 points, it’s just 3-8 on the year. The Blazers have to aim for the triple-digit mark, which means they’ll have to play up-tempo.
If Portland plays its reserves as much as it has lately, a fast-paced game is the only way you should expect 100 points. The backups haven’t proven to be reliable shooters on a regular basis, and the easiest way to score points is to simply run your competition straight out of the gym.
While Memphis can be considered a defensive juggernaut, it’s more middle-of-the-road when it comes to containing the fast break. Portland is just 26th in the league in transition scoring, but it will have to ride the energy of the Rose Garden and push the pace from start to finish.
What to Watch: Memphis
We all know that the Grizzlies win games with defense, but if they’re going to focus on one area Wednesday night, it’s going to be forcing turnovers.
In Monday’s loss, Portland turned the ball over 16 times. It shot the ball well, shooting 58 percent, but the giveaways are what lost the game, as the Jazz ended up with 16 more shots than the Blazers.
Memphis will look to swarm anybody who has the ball. Both the guards and the bigs have been known to give up the ball, and if the Grizzlies can stay physical—and we know they will—they’ll make a young Blazers team extremely uncomfortable.
Zach Randolph has done wonders when it comes to cleaning up his image in the NBA. He’s recognized for strong play and strong character in Memphis, but fans in Portland will always remember him as one of the final pieces to be traded following the infamous Jail Blazers era.
Rip City has seen many Blazer Killers over the years, and Randolph is certainly one of them. Containing him on defense will be tough, but both LaMarcus Aldridge and JJ Hickson have the skill sets to do what they want on offense.
Portland: Questionable – LaMarcus Aldridge
With the Blazers in the midst of a five-game skid, it’s tough to trust them at this point. Memphis still has a chance to land the No. 3 spot out West, and it’ll be looking to inch closer to that mark against Portland.