Who: Memphis Grizzlies vs Portland Trailblazers
When: 7:00 PM CST
Where: FedEx Forum, Memphis, TN
Records: Memphis (39-19), Portland (28-31)
Media: SportsSouth, 92.9 FM, 680 AM
Forums: 3 Shades of Blue, Grizzlies Message Board
Memphis has the opportunity to go 21 games over .500 for the firshttp e since the 2003-04 season.. This is the second of five straight games against teams below .500 on the season so the opportunity to set more new highs is present for the Grizzlies. Memphis restructured their lineup after the trades of Rudy Gay, Mo Speights, Wayne Ellington, Josh Selby and Hamed Haddadi. Now the team may be shuffling some more as Zach Randolph (sprained ankle) and Darrell Arthur (sore back) are questionable for this game. Memphis has built their success on defense this season and has surrendered the fewest points in the league this year. Offensively the team has struggled but seems to finding some success with the new players on the team.
Portland is fighting for the playoffs trailing 8th place Utah by 3 and a half games. The Blazers have turned things around following a 7 game losing streak by winning 3 of their last 4 games. Led by rookie Damien Lillard and All-Star PF LaMarcus Aldridge, the Blazers have turned things around with offense scoring in excess of 100 points in three of the four games. All four games were played in Portland. The only loss in the last four games was to Denver by two points. Portland has struggled on the road this season going 10-20 and haven’t won on the road since a February 4th victory at Minnesota.
Expected Starting Lineups:
Mike Conley vs Damian Lillard
Lillard shared summer league MVP honors with former Grizz Josh Selby but has taken has carried the momentum over to the real season averaging 18.5 PPG and 6.4 APG. Lillard has been struggling with his shot over the last 10 games shooting just 41.6% from the field. Mike Conley has been responding to the added responsibility thrust on him since the trades boosting his scoring to 13.7 PPG while hitting 43.1% from the field over the last 10 games. While not a dramatic improvement in numbers, his control of the team is unquestioned now. Lillard and Conley neutralized each other in their last meeting. Lillard will be counted on to create more offense individually but if he isn’t efficient it could be a long night for the Blazers.
Tony Allen vs Wes Matthews
Wes Matthews twisted his ankle a week ago but has not struggled with his shot since returning to the team. Matthews is hitting 52% of his field goal attempts in his last five games and an amazing 51.4% from the arc over that time span. Matthews has been a Grizz Killer in the past so his hot shooting must be respected. Allen has cooled off some since his hot shooting in February but is still shooting 51.1% over the last 10 games. Allen isn’t counted on for scoring however. His job is to stop opposing teams scorers and there aren’t many that can compare to him in that regard. Great defense can’t stop every shot but he can make it difficult and Allen knows how Matthews loves to score against the Grizzlies.
Tayshaun Prince vs Nicolas Batum
Batum has finally started to show the talent that everyone knew he had. An unselfish player at heart, this season Batum has begun to assert himself more on a nightly basis. Over the last 1o games Batum has not been as proficient as he has this season but is still capable of having big games. His proficiency has been affected by a right wrist injury that he has played through. Prince has fit in well with the Grizzlies since coming over in the Rudy Gay trade. Prince has never been a player who demands shot attempts but is more than capable of hitting them when teams forget about him. Prince’s defense has improved as well as he adjusts to the more pressure based defense of the Grizzlies.
Zach Randolph vs LaMarcus Aldridge
This could be the most important matchup of the game. It all depends on Zach Randolph’s ankle. Aldridge and Randolph were the only representatives of their team in the All-Star game this season. It was Aldridge’s first appearance and Randolph’s second. Randolph was originally drafted by Portland and has always enjoyed playing against his former team. Randolph excels on the offensive glass using his anticipation, soft hands and powerful legs to create space where few like to battle. Aldridge is more of a finesse power forward. In a way he is like former Grizz Pau Gasol. Aldridge is deadly from 10-15 feet and is quick enough to get to the rim when bigger players move out to defend his jump shot. Randolph’s sore ankle won’t help in that regard.
Marc Gasol vs J J Hickson
There has been conversation this season about Marc Gasol being the defensive secret for the Grizzlies. Hickson didn’t seem too distracted by that conversation going for 19 points and 11 boards in the team’s first meeting. Hickson is hot right now having reached double figures in 7 straight games while hitting 69.4% of his field goal attempts over that span. Gasol will need to pay close attention to Hickson to keep him away from the basket. Gasol has shaken off a mini shooting slump he was in around the all-star game despite a less than stellar effort in the blowout win over Orlando. Gasol has clearly been the biggest benefactor from Rudy Gay’s absence averaging nearly 15.6 PPG and 8.6 RPG in his last 10 games while shooting 52% from the field.
Portland’s starting five is solid but their bench has been a problem all season. The Blazers made a move to shore up that problem when they acquired Eric Maynor from OKC at the trade deadline. Maynor has teamed well with Lillard in a small ball backcourt as well as handling the point when Lillard needs a breather. In many ways he is like the Grizzlies Jerryd Bayless in that respect but Maynor is more a true PG while Bayless is more of a shooting guard. Victor Claver and rookie Meyers Leonard also provide solid play off Portland’s bench. Former Tiger Will Barton returns home for this game as well. Memphis’ bench has been playing at a very high level of late with Quincy Pondexter and Austin Daye opening the court with their 3 point shooting, Ed Davis and Darrell Arthur manning the backup minutes inside and Bayless. Only Bayless has struggled lately but that can change in an instant for the sharp shooting combo guard.