Coming off some of their best basketball of the season, the Blazers embark on a 5-game in 7 days road trip tonight in Memphis. It’s funny that just when it seems as if Portland might be putting some things together, they have to take their show on the road. One of the big issues coming into this year was the Blazers ability to improve their record on the road. Despite early struggles at the Rose Garden, we know Portland can win at home. We don’t know if they can win on the road yet. This next will show us where we’re at. If you look at the schedule, all 5 games are winnable. 4-1 would be a smashing success, while 3-2 would be ok in the sense that it’s a winning road trip but a little disappointing given the competition.
What do Portland and Memphis have in common? Don’t say Zach Randolph. Damnit you did didn’t you? Ok, what do both these teams have in common other than Zach Randolph? Crap, you said Lionel Hollins right? Ok, last time..what do both these teams have in common other than Zach Randolph and Lionel Hollins? You guessed it: slightly overblown early season stories. For Memphis it’s been the Allen Iverson story. Literally that’s all I’ve heard about the Memphis Grizzlies this year is Allen Iverson this and Allen Iverson that. If you don’t believe me, well ask yourself what Memphis’ record is? Didn’t know it was 1-6 right? But you knew that AI threw a fit after Game 1, then Lionel Hollins was like “I’m not talking about this” and then AI was like “Me neither” and then he left. The Hills couldn’t have scripted this any better. For Portland, it’s gone from Andre Miller being a ‘bad guy’, to almost hitting the panic button because of the rough start to now…the three guard lineup. Yes, this lineup is causing some people’s head to nearly explode. ‘OMG Blake to the bench? Rudy unhappy? Blake or Rudy? What about Bayless? What’s Nate doing?’ Let’s cut the speculation out until we see what happens at the conclusion of this experiment. I say we bite our tongues until it either ends or stops working. Andre Miller seems renewed, LMA and Oden have a new lease on life.
On to tonight’s opponent, the Memphis Grizzlies. The Grizzlies are the best 2K10/Live/Fantasy team ever. Between Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol and OJ Mayo you’ve got some major league talent. Unfortunately the Grizzlies are a real basketball team and there is a reason they are 1-6. It took me a while to figure out why they’re so bad. I mean….they have a boat load of offensive talent. Gay (22.3 PPG, 51.3% from the field), Randolph (20.3 PPG, 10.7 RPG, 52.3% from the field), Mayo (18 PPG) and Gasol (15 PPG, 11.9 RPG) are putting up numbers. And cut them some slack, I mean they started the season with a brutal 5-game road trip in which they dropped all 5 games. That’s understandable right? A young team is going to struggle to win road games. For pete’s sake they are averaging 105.9 PPG and put up 123 in Denver this season. They’re way better than their record right?!?!? Wait. I’m remembering something. Something about not knowing what the word defense means. Let me look into this…yeah. Grizzlies are giving up 114.7 PPG and letting teams shoot 50% from the field.
The Grizzlies don’t know what defense is. And I mean that in every single way. Their guys are D’ing up and they sure aren’t going to put together a team defensive effort. Example 1: Zach Randolph. They also have nothing that seems to resemble a second unit. They don’t really play well together as a team. Their first 5 may be scary but their bench definitely is not. DeMarre Carroll, Marcus Williams, Sam Young and Steven Hunter…I welcome them to be on the court tonight.
All jokes aside…I’m still afraid of their offense. Honestly, our D is going to be tested. Mayo and Gay are the kind of athletic, gunning, swingmen that could give us issues. And they are going to get their shots up without a doubt. Traditionally Zach Randolph has decided to go off on Portland..you remember his performance in the RG last year.
For Portland…these are the games you have to win. These are the kind of games where if you beat yourself bad things could happen. Portland can win by playing a team game and out executing a bad team.
Keys to the game
- But the ball in the bucket. Sounds corny and obvious, but against a team that is going to give you good looks…you have to make them. In my mind it’s a race to 100 against the Grizzlies and it’s a race the Blazers can win. But if Roy, Rudy, Martell and Outlaw all struggle shooting, it’s going to be a sad day in Portland.
- Execute. No silly turnovers, no wasted possessions, no settling offesnively. If we let them off the hook by not making them play defense than we’re only beating ourselves. That can be done by taking bad shots or by turning the ball over. It’s Memphis. Defense is their H1N1 virus.
- Win the battle of the boards. Easier said than done. Randolph and Gasol both average 10+ boards a game while Gay averages 7. Cannot give up second shots to this team.
- Win the battle inside. If Oden/LMA outplay Randolph/Gasol, we’ll be in great shape. If it’s the other way around it’s going to be more of a struggle than it needs to be. Memphis doesn’t have much front court depth. I’d love to see Hunter/Thabeet try and guard Oden/LMA. They’re going to look to get our bigs in foul trouble, let’s do the same thing.
- Energy. Memphis doesn’t have much of a home court advantage, some coming out with a readiness at the beginning could swing the whole thing Portland’s way.