And the Blazers take on the Grizzlies for what feels like the third time in three days. This feels like the College Basketball Invitational final series. Ok, definitely not but you get my drift. Who wants to talk about the Grizzlies right now? Let’s hope this blogger’s attitude is not shared by the Blazers. Coup said it best a few days back…a playoff team does not lose to the 22-54 Memphis Grizzlies at this point in the season. I don’t care where this game is being played at…it just doesn’t happen. Portland cannot lose this game, not ever, but especially not at this point in the season. There are very few layups left on the schedule. This is one of them and it must not be taken for granted. There cannot be a letdown just because of the x next to our name in the standings.
I’m interested to see how the Blazers respond in this game. It’s been stated before, but the bounce-backability of this team has been remarkable (yes made up words). There’s a significance behind the fact that the longest losing streak of the season is 3. The game in Houston was a step backwards, a little bit of a wake up call as the Rockets kind of punched the Blazers in the mouth. The performance will show if this was a step backwards or if it was all Houston.
The key to tonight is that Portland cannot fall into the trap. Believe me people, the trap is definitely laid out there. Memphis has won 4 games in a row which is tied for their longest streak of the season. On the 28th this team looked like they were ready for the vacation. Now??? Not so much. And I’m sure they’ll be looking to make up for that beating they took in the Rose Garden. Late in the season there are the teams who randomly catch fire and those who pack it in. Memphis is teetering toward the former category. How so? Ever since that beating…well…they haven’t lost. They’ve scored 100+ in 4 straight games and have been running all over the opposition. They even beat Dallas. The keys?? Everyone is playing much better. Rudy Gay has been on an absolute tear. In the 4 wins he’s averaging 24.7 points, 6.25 rebounds and shooting 54.5% from the field. Not only is that scary…but he is definitely due to play well against the Blazers. In the three previous contests, Gay has averaged 15.6 points on 41% shooting. Watch out for Rudy tonight. Also on a tear is Mike Conley who essentially dropped a deuce in the middle of the Rose Garden in that game. Last 4 games…21.2 points and 6 assists. Also look at the battle inside. Marc Gasol has had a re-birth as well during these 4 games averaging 16 points and 8 rebounds. Portland still has a major advantage inside…but if Memphis can get anything from the interior, things have the potential to get sticky.
Keys to success:
- Be physical. Last time the Blazers played Memphis, they laid the smack down. 50-28 advantage on the boards. The advantage is inside. We have to do what the Rockets did to us and there is no reason why we shouldn’t. Other than LA TANQUETA….not a lot of banging on the Grizzlies frontline. Darrell Arthur, Hakim Warrick and Darko don’t really put fear in my heart. They shouldn’t against Joel, Oden and LMA. Portland has to set a tone and prepare themselves for the physical play that is upcoming. Nothing wrong with punishing the Grizzlies to remember what its like.
- Protect the paint. If we can make the Grizzlies a jump-shooting team, things will be grand. Not that Memphis isn’t talented but..shooting is not their strength. Obviously you don’t want Gay or Conley to get hot, but them taking jumpers is not the worst thing in the world. They are going to shoot anyways and I’d rather they take questionable jumpers than slash to the basket or get to the foul line.
- Contain one of their big 3. Mayo, Gay or Conley…take your choice. We’ve been able to shut the Grizzlies down for the most part. To beat Memphis you have to make these guys have rough nights. If you look at the box score after the game and see the number of field goal attempts up there with the number of points, we should be happy with the result.
- Energy, Patience and Execution. Do what playoff teams do. Outplay them and hopefully get some rest for B-Roy’s knee.