The Portland Trail Blazers (33-12) host the Memphis Grizzlies (22-20) at 7:00 p.m. PST tonight for their first meeting of the season. This game should be exciting on both ends of the floor. The Trail Blazers continue to lead the league in scoring while the Grizzlies have tightened the reins on defense since the return of elite center Marc Gasol.
The Trail Blazers hope to regroup and get back to their scoring ways after a poor offensive performance on Sunday in Oakland. Hats off to Golden State and the way they approached their second meeting with Portland. The Trail Blazers shot a season-low 33.7 percent and tied their largest margin of defeat this season at 15 points. LaMarcus Aldridge was 2-14 from the field and finished with 10 points. A win tonight would be Portland’s sixth straight at home.
The Memphis Grizzlies have a little pep in their step. Since the return of Marc Gasol, the Grizzlies have won seven of their last eight games, including a three game road win streak. Their defense has seen the most improvement with Gasol back at center. In the last six games, the Grizzlies are allowing 86.2 points per game which is 10 points better than their season average. It seems as though the reigning NBA defensive player of the year has returned at the perfect time.
Portland Trail Blazers:
- Nicolas Batum is probable for tonight’s game with soreness in his right ankle. Batum had an MRI yesterday that came back negative.
- Tony Allen will be out as he continues to recover from a broken hand. He is past his original timetable of two weeks but there is no news on when he will return.
- Quincy Pondexter suffered a stress fracture in his foot last month and is expected to miss the rest of the season.
Keys To The Game
Slow Zach Randolph. Randolph has turned into a fantastic starter for the Grizzlies. It wasn’t long ago that Randolph was goofing around on and off the court in Portland, as reported by Aaron Mesh of Willamette Week. The Trail Blazers selected Randolph in the first round of the 2001 NBA Draft. He has always been a great post-up player and works hard on the boards. His best season as a Trail Blazer was in 2006-2007 where he averaged 23.6 points and 10.1 rebounds. This season Randolph has been the go to guy averaging 17.0 points and 10.7 rebounds. Now that Gasol is back, most teams will concentrate on keeping him away from the rim and Randolph’s numbers should increase. Portland must commit to keeping Randolph off the block and the boards.
Robin Lopez. It’s not very often that Lopez gets into the keys to the game section. Tonight, Lopez will have his hands full with Marc Gasol. Gasol is a terrific jump shooter for a center. He will try to pull Lopez away from the rim, allowing Conley and Randolph to feast on an open lane. We have all heard (and seen) how bad the Trail Blazers have become on defense. Lopez is their only defense inside the paint. If Gasol draws Lopez outside tonight, the Trail Blazers will have to have help-side defense ready.
Win The Turnover Battle. Portland is dead last in forcing turnovers. On the season, they have only forced 543 turnovers. The Trail Blazers have forced 223 fewer turnovers than the Miami Heat, who are first in that category. The Memphis Grizzlies don’t turn the ball over. They are second to last in that category and have a strong point guard in Mike Conley. If the Blazers want to get back to the way they played the first part of the season, they must force turnovers and limit their own.