March 20, 2012; Sacramento, CA, USA; Memphis Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley (11) drives in against Sacramento Kings point guard Isaiah Thomas (22) during the third quarter at Power Balance Pavilion. The Sacramento Kings defeated the Memphis Grizzlies 119-110. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-US PRESSWIRE

Game 47 Preview: Portland Trail Blazers vs. Memphis Grizzlies

Blazers: 21-25 (5th Northwest Division)

Grizzlies: 25-19 (2nd Southwest Division)

Game Details: Rose Garden Arena Portland, OR. TV: CSN. Radio: 750 AM (KXTG)

Projected Blazers Lineup: PG Raymond Felton (#5, 6’1”, North Carolina), SG Wesley Matthews (#2, 6’5”, Marquette), SF Nicolas Batum (#88, 6’8”, MSB Le Mans, France), PF LaMarcus Aldridge (#12, 6’11”, Texas). C Joel Przybilla (#10. 7’1”, Minnesota)

Projected Grizzlies Lineup: PG Mike Conely (#11, 6’1”, Ohio State), SG Tony Allen (#9, 6’4”, Oklahoma State), SF Rudy Gay (#22, 6’8”, Connecticut), PF Zach Randolph (#50, 6’9”, Michigan State), C Marc Gasol (#33, 7’1”, FC Barcelona, Spain)

A couple months ago, the Blazers beat these same Grizzlies at home 97-84. At the time, Memphis had won seven in a row, and the Rose Garden was one again starting to look like the unbeatable place it had been in the past few years.

Now, the Blazers are light years away from that team they were on January 4th, and the Grizz are smack dab in the middle of a three-way tie (record-wise) for home court advantage in the Playoffs. In short, this will not be an easy game for Portland.

Against the Bucks, the Blazers never really engaged, and they paid dearly for it. Memphis is better the Milwaukee, but plays a similar style. If Portland doesn’t come out early, with at least the slightest bit of intention, this one will be over in a hurry.

And that’s what this last part of the season is going to be about. Post-game Tuesday, a lot of guys paid lip service to the fact that they need to be more focused and that they can still get things done if they play hard. It’s time for these guys to back up their words. It’s very very unlikely that the Blazers will get within sniffing distance of the Playoffs, but it isn’t unlikely that the fans will stop showing up for the last run of home games, and that those that do show up will start getting verbally abusive should the play get really sloppy and the Blazers get run off their home court for the second time in as many games. That’s the challenge at this point: can the Blazers prove to the city of Portland that they care.

Here’s the one thing that I’m going to be watching for:

  • Will Gilbert Arenas play: Agent Zero is in the building. Will his stepping on the court make basketball cease to exist as we know it? Or will it be the beginning of one of the most unexpected redemption stories in the history of the NBA? Most likely, should Gil get some court time it will be an indication that Memphis is up a billion and coach Lionel Hollins doesn’t mind if the last guy on his bench chucks 40-footers for five or so minutes.

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Twitter: @mikeacker | @ripcityproject

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