Who: Memphis Grizzlies vs. Portland Trailblazers
When: 7:00 pm CST
Where: FedExForum, Memphis, TN
Records: Memphis Grizzlies (38-25), Portland (28-35)
Expected Starting Lineups:
Memphis – Mike Conley, Tony Allen, Rudy Gay, Marreese Speights, Marc Gasol
Portland – Nolan Smith, Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum, J.J. Hickson, Joel Przybilla
The Grizzlies have won 3 games in a row and have clinched a playoff berth for the 2nd straight year. They are 10-3 in the month of April and their final 3 games are very winnable, with Portland tonight, Cleveland on Monday, and a Dwight Howard-less Orlando Magic team on Thursday to end the season. Let’s say that they win two of those three games. That will give them a record of 40-26, meaning that yet again, the Grizzlies will finish a season without a win total in the 30′s. You read that right. The Memphis Grizzlies have never had a win total that fell in the range of 30-39. Quite frankly, that’s rather remarkable.
Tonight, the Trail Blazers are in town tonight…and they are hurting. They have lost 4 in a row and 6 of their last 7. Their best player — All-Star PF LaMarcus Aldrige for those of you scoring at home — has been out since April 12 with a hip injury that will require surgery in the offseason. The trades that they made before the deadline were exchanging veterans with expiring deals for draft picks and young players with potential. Sound familiar? They will look to rebuild this team around Aldridge, Batum, and Matthews. They seem to have found a quality big man in Hickson, who was released by Sacramento earlier this year after they traded for him. They are a team needing a reboot, and the offseason cannot come soon enough for them as they finish the year with 3 games on the road.
For the Grizzlies to win, they will have to put Wesley Matthews on lockdown, first and foremost. Matthews has averaged beter than 20 ppg against Memphis this season. Especially key is his ability to hit perimeter shots, as he has hit 50% of the three-pointers he has taken against the Grizzlies. This is one of the reasons that Portland has won 3 in a row against Memphis. The Grizzlies need to do a better job of not fouling, as Portland converted all 25 of their free throw attempts in their last meeting. Play Grit & Grind defense and pound the ball inside early and often.
For the Blazers to win, they will have to attack the basket and hope to get to the foul line. On defense, they should look to create easy transaction opportunities with steals and blocks. They will have to hope that Hickson and Ghostface Przybilla are enough to keep Gasol, Z-Bo and Speights at bay.
Prediction: Grizz win again