The Portland Trail Blazers have now lost all 3 games of their road trip thus far, after falling to the Memphis Grizzlies 99-109. Portland got off to an early lead, but was unable to hold on for long. The Grizzlies’ trademark defense was smothering and kept the Trail Blazers well below their average scoring mark of 107.7 points. More than that, Portland could not match Memphis’ offense; unusual given the matchup. Five Grizzlies scored 14 or more points (in the very same fashion Ryan predicted this afternoon).
The Trail Blazers struggled to find relief off the bench after Mo Williams left the game with a hip injury in the second quarter. Williams had 4 points and 3 assists in the 11 minutes that he played, well on his way to what would have been a productive outing. His replacement CJ McCollum went scoreless in 20 minutes of action, thanks to the defensive efforts of Mike Conley and Tony Allen. McCollum was only able to get two shots off.
On the other end, Memphis guards Conley, Allen, and Courtney Lee combined for 40 points even, but the most damage was done by the Grizzlies’ frontcourt. Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol were able to completely neutralize our dependable hero Robin Lopez, while scoring 18 and 19 points respectively. Memphis simply outplayed Portland all over the court.
The Trail Blazers were unsurprisingly led by Damian Lillard, who had 32 points with 7 assists. No other Trail Blazer breached 20, though LaMarcus Aldridge came close with 19. As a team, Portland shot a disappointing 40.7 percent to Memphis’ 56.0 percent. Randolph was the only Grizzly to shoot under 50 percent from the field. This game intensified the telescopic zoom on Portland’s biggest weakness. They must find a way to improve their defense if they hope to see the second round of the impending playoffs.
Tonight’s sole bright point for the red and black was not Lillard’s 32 points, but how he got them. As it became clear that the clock was working against them (earlier on than we would like, unfortunately) Lillard attacked the basket and was able to get to the line on a regular basis. 12 of his 32 points were scored when the clock was stopped. Though ultimately futile, his relative success under pressure bodes well for the first playoff series of his fledgling career, rapidly approaching.
The Trail Blazers have little time to regroup as they prepare to face the best in the West San Antonio Spurs (yes, they have overtaken the mighty Oklahoma City Thunder) tomorrow night at 6:30 p.m. PST. If they are unable to end their skid, it will be the first time this season that they have lost more than three games in a row. It is imperative that they win, now more than ever, as they jockey for playoff position and the oh so important homecourt advantage.