Who: Memphis Grizzlies vs Portland Trail Blazers
When: Tuesday, March 12th, 9:00 PM CST
Where: Rose Garden, Portland, OR
Records: Memphis (42-19), Portland (29-32)
Media: SportSouth, 92.9 FM, 680 AM
Forums: 3 Shades of Blue, Grizzlies Message Board
Memphis puts its four game win streak on the line tonight against a familiar foe, the Portland Trailblazers. I hope the Grizzlies enjoyed the past two days off, because they’re about to set off on the NBA equivalent of the Oregon Trail in what figures to be their most arduous stretch of the season. Tonight begins a four game road trip that consists of two tough back-to-backs with only one day between them. You read that right, that’s four road games in five days. Zach Randolph has missed both meetings against the Blazers this season due to unrelated ailments, but he practiced with the team and expects to play in this one; a homecoming of sorts in the arena where he played out the first six seasons of his career. In other injury-related news, Darrell Arthur’s outlook is a bit more cloudy and bleak, as he still has yet to practice while nursing neck and back soreness related to that nasty fall he took in Orlando.
Portland has given our Grizzly bears a bit of trouble out on Beale Street in the last two meetings. Both games were decided by single digits as the season series stands split 1-1 heading into tonight. The Blazers have righted the ship to some extent after a messy month of February, winning four of their last seven. Since we last checked in with them a week ago today, they gave the Spurs their second worst home loss of all time, scoring 136 points, but promptly followed that up with a two point loss against the Hornets on Sunday.
Expected Starting Lineups:
Mike Conley vs Damian Lillard:
Lillard and Conley played one another to an excellent duel in the last meeting. Both parties put up efficient showings of 20 points on 50%+ shooting from the field. I’ll give Conley the edge for last one for the better percentage, 2 blocks, 2 steals, and most importantly the W, but I wouldn’t expect the same outcome tonight in Lillard’s house.
Tony Allen vs Wesley Matthews:
*Matchup of the night* - For some reason, Matthews is just one of those guys (and it’s a select group) that is not all that phased by TA’s defense. He just has a great sense of where to be on the court, and seems to make Tony pay for every gamble on the ball that he does not win. In the first meeting, Matthews went off and sank 5 three pointers for 21 points and the Blazers won. In the second meeting, he was 1-6 from the arc and shot 36% overall in a Blazers loss. It’s a mere correlation in just two games, but when teams play one another as close as these two do, you look to anything you can as a difference maker.
Tayshaun Prince vs Nicolas Batum:
Tayshaun has struggled with his shot quite a bit lately, but unlike the guy who filled this position before he did (I won’t mention any names), he knows how to manage a positive impact on the offensive end of the floor when the jumper is not fallling. He’s an excellent catalyst for ball movement, and assist numbers don’t do those qualities any justice. Maybe even more importantly, he excels at keeping posessions alive off the boards. Again, he may not always haul in the rebound himself, but he has a knack for getting into the fray and getting the ball to a teammate. In four matchups dating back to February of 2011, Batum has struggled against Prince individually, having gone 2-9, 5-15, 2-9 and 4-10 shooting in the respective games. Call me crazy, but I’m going to give this one to the good guys.
Zach Randolph vs LaMarcus Aldridge:
Zbo is looking to return tonight in his ol’ neck of the woods against the heir apparent that supplanted him as the cornerstone power forward of the Blazers franchise. Aldridge is having another fantastic season thus far, but has been held relatively quiet to the tune of 8 points below his season average by the Grizzlies. Both all-star forwards are dealing with the after effects of badly rolled ankles, so we could just as easily see the battle of this spot come down to Jared Jeffries and Ed Davis. However, until further notice I’m looking forward to Zbo and LMA battle it out.
Marc Gasol vs J.J. Hickson:
If Aldridge is forced to miss this one, Hickson will likely be asked to step in as the featured scorer on the block, which is actually something he has done well against the Grizz this year. He’s a very solid athlete, a feisty rebounder, and a workhorse in the paint, with a PER pushing 21. This being said, Marc Gasol has been more than holding his own and picking up the slack in Zbo’s recent absence, abusing the frontline of just about everybody in the process. Hickson is good, but he’s just not big enough to stop Marc from getting his.
Eric Maynor as a February acquisition was a real nice addition to an otherwise paper thin bench for the Trailblazers. He provides a steady, competent, and battle-tested backup for the prized rookie, Lillard. He went for 20 off the bench to go along with 6 assists against the top-seeded Spurs. Other than Maynor, Portland’s bench is thin ice when healthy, which speaks to how shallow it is with guys like Meyers Leonard battling injury. On the Grizzlies’ side, 25 year old Quincy Pondexter has been looking more and more like a seasoned veteran as he has definitively reclaimed his 20+ minute a night sixth man role. In addition, Jerryd Bayless dropped 3 moneyballs from downtown against the Blazers last time, and Tony Wroten made a number of nice plays from the guard spot.
The Portland Roundball Society