Keep on keepin’ on
After losing eight of nine games to close out the month of February, the Portland Trail Blazers have won their first two games to start March. Both games were against winnable opponents, but the momentum is there to make a late-season push.
Matchup: Portland (28-31) @ Memphis Grizzlies (39-19)
Time: 5:00 PM PT
Date: Wednesday, March 6, 2013
This game is the first of a three-game road trip, and a win would do wonders for the team’s confidence heading into San Antonio.
Game Notes/How They Match Up
Winning ugly hasn’t been Portland’s thing during the 2012-13 season. It proved for a while that it know how to win close games, but when it shoots poorly and is forced to battle physically, the opposition too often has the edge.
All that being said, the Blazers won the last time they met the Grizzlies, and you’d better believe they won ugly.
Back on Jan. 4, Portland won a game in Memphis that experienced nine ties and 21 lead changes. Neither team shot the ball well, and the final score ended up being Portland 86, Memphis 84.
Memphis is a much better defensive group, but the Blazers have been able to score with more regularity thus far. There’s no question that the Grizzlies are the better team, but with the Blazers looking confident, a win on the road is certainly possible.
What to Watch: Portland
The Memphis Grizzlies are averaging just 93.5 points per game, which is only good enough for 26th in the NBA. So how exactly have they reeled off nine wins in their last 10 contests?
Defense. Defense. Defense.
If you’re Portland, you have to score points on the Grizzlies. They’re the No. 1 defensive team when it comes to points allowed, and they’ve given up just 85.1 points per game in their last 10 wins.
In their last 10 losses, the Grizz have allowed 96.8 points per contest, which is an achievable number if Portland’s offense is clicking.
The last time these two met, neither team shot the ball better than 40.7 percent from the field. Portland needs to be efficient against Memphis, and if it can do that, scoring points will come more easily.
What to Watch: Memphis
When it comes to a team that is all defense and no offense, you can’t give them second chances to put the ball in the basket.
Memphis has been a decent rebounding team this year, but where they’ve thrived is on the offensive glass. They’re averaging the second-most offensive rebounds in the NBA, and they struggle scoring when you take away second-chance opportunities.
Adversely, the Grizzlies also allow the second-most offensive rebounds. Portland’s No. 1 objective has to be keeping the Memphis bigs away from the rim, but if that becomes too much to handle, it has to fight back and be just as productive on the other end of the floor.
There are a number of intriguing matchups in this contest. The flashiest battle will take place at the point guard position between Damian Lillard and Mike Conley Jr. Both point guards know how to run an offense, but the two combined for a quiet outcome last time they faced off.
Another position to watch is the 4-spot. LaMarcus Aldridge and Zach Randolph have had some great contests in the past, but with Randolph battling a sprained ankle, his status in up in the air for this one.
So in a physical game that could very well come down to effort and grittiness, where does the key matchup lie?
At the center position, of course.
J.J. Hickson will be matching up against one of the best true centers in the league in Marc Gasol. The two will fight for rebounds all game long, and the offensive boards will not be ignored by either player.
It’s possible that this battle gets ignored in the national highlights, but those who appreciate the dirty work will love watching these two Wednesday night.
Portland: OUT—Sasha Pavlovic
Memphis: DAY-TO-DAY—Zach Randolph, Darrell Arthur
Portland has looked good in its last two contests, but it’s about to find out that there is a huge difference between a perennial playoff contender and the worst teams in the league.