Thursday, November 26, 2009

Trail Blazers vs. Grizzlies: Game 18

The Memphis Grizzlies roll into town with a 5-10 record, including a pitiful 1-7 on the road to face a team, in the Portland Trail Blazers, they have not defeated in their last 8 tries. Portland is looking to extend their winning streak to 9 games overall against Memphis, 7 games at the Rose Garden, and 4 overall. The boys flirted with disaster on Wednesday night, letting the Nets hang close through the 3rd quarter, even tying the game at once point, before the Blazers and the hot hand of Rudy Fernandez helped them pull away 93-83. Hopefully the Blazers can make a statement early and leave no doubt, because they have a game the next night in Salt Lake city, a traditional "House of Horrors" for the team, so the more rest the team has, the better.
Outside of removing themselves from the dead-weight that Allen Iverson is, the Grizz don't have much going on for them. They are dead last in the league at opposition field goal percentage as they allow other teams to shoot an astounding 50% from the field and give up the 4th most points per game at nearly 108 a night, which makes this contest eerily similar to the Warrior's game last week. The Blazers better be ready to play some defense, because Mayo, Gasol, Gay, and Randolph can put points on the board in bunches. The addition of Z-Bo has brought the Grizz some positive ramifications, as they are tops in the league in rebounding differential at +7.33. But guess who is number two? You guessed it, the Blazers at +6.35. Both teams are head and shoulders above the rest of the league in rebounding differential, as the 3rd closest team is +3 rebounds away, so it is pretty apparent the game will come down to the battle on the boards.
Just like the New Jersey game, this game features another bout between two, young centers in G.O. and Marc Gasol. The once hefty an slow-footed Gasol left me with no other choice than to compare him to the Jamaal Magloire circa 2007, but he put in some cardio work over the summer and is extremely agile and the numbers he has put up so far this year have proven the hard work in the off-season has paid off. Marc is averaging an impressive 15 and 10 with 62% shooting. Although the Blazers held Zach in check (11 points, 12 rebounds), normally a Blazer killer, during the last meeting back on the 10th of November, it was Gasol's 20 point, 8 rebound performance that kept Memphis always in striking distance and his newly found quickness was on display as he attacked the hoop with a quick first step to the tune of 13 attempts at the foul line. It will be very imperative for Greg to move his feet when guarding Gasol, because it will be his first priority to attack Oden to see if he can get him into early foul trouble. Greg had 5 fouls last meeting, but if I remember correctly, it was his burst in the 3rd quarter that enabled the team to pull away from Memphis en route to a 93-79 victory.
You really never know what type of game you'll get with Memphis. We either seem to blow them out of the water or have it be too close for comfort at the RG. I think this game will be close for a quarter or so, but then Andre will come in with the 2nd unit, run wild with Rudy, Dante, and Jerryd and use a big run to keep the Grizzlies at bay for the rest of the game. By no means will this one be easy or in the bag before tip off, because of how good of a rebounding team Memphis is. Rebounding is not a skill, it is a desire, a want, and takes motivation to bang and fight for those boards. If the Blazers don't feel like rebounding or don't want it more than the Grizzlies, it could be a long night as garbage points are one way for an inferior opponent to stay in the game. Fortunately, Coach Nate will have the guys ready to close out the 4 game home-stand as he knows games like these, you must win if you want the best possible playoff position.
Game 18 Prediction: Trail Blazers 103 Grizzles 89
In my 3 years, this being my 3rd, as a season ticket holder, I do not think I have ever been more at a loss for words and disappointed in this team than I was after last night's debacle. All signs pointed to a good, early start as Portland hit their first 3, 3 point attempts and went up by a score of 15-11, then "The Run" happened. A combination of poor shot selection, turnovers, and lackluster interior defense lead Memphis to an incredible 31-2 run. I hope someone does some research on this, because I don't think I've ever seen a run that devastating, ever, in a professional basketball game.
For the second straight game Portland gave up over 50 points in the paint. For such a great defensive team statistically, there is no excuse for this to happen, especially against bottom-dwellers New Jersey and Memphis. Greg and Joel can only do so much to protect the paint, but when the guards are consistently getting beat off of the dribble, it forces the big men to come over and help out and all it takes is the extra pass and there is a wide open lay-up. Not only was the perimeter defense horrid but the pick and roll defense reared it's ugly head again. It would have been nice to force Conley an Tinsley to beat them from the outside by shooting contested jumpers instead of going over the top of the screen.
There were only two positives about the game last night. The first was Martell who looked like the Martell who scored 24 in the 3rd quarter against Utah two years ago. He was a scorching 6-11 from 3, 9-14 overall, en route to a team-high 24 points. He was really the only player keeping the game somewhat respectable and, in my opinion, the only player giving me hope we could come back and steal the victory. My only question is why did Nate sit him down for 6 minutes to start the 4th? I understand he needed rest after playing the entire 3rd quarter, but curious to hear why it was a 6 minute rest and not 2-3.
Finally, as I rode the MAX train home after the game, it was so hilarious to hear people on the train say things of this nature, "Man, I really undervalued Travis. I thought we would be just fine without him, but we really missed him tonight." The only thing I have to say about that is, "You don't know what you've got till it's gone!" Hopefully, this will silence the Trav haters.
Box Score
Post-Game Thoughts

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