After a late season five game road trip, the Portland Trail Blazers (47-27) return home to host the Memphis Grizzlies (43-29). This will be the third and final meeting of the season between the teams. The Grizzlies won both previous match-ups, the last coming earlier this month by 10 points in Memphis (109-99).
The Portland Trail Blazers finished their five game road trip with back-to-back wins. Portland beat Atlanta by 15 points on Thursday (100-85) then followed it up with an impressive win in Chicago on Friday (91-74). The return of All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge seems to have lifted the spirits and performance of his teammates. Aldridge sat out seven games prior to Thursday’s game in Atlanta with a lower back injury, which he sustained against San Antonio on March 12th.
All he did in his return to action was post 25 points and 16 rebounds. Aldridge struggled in the following game on Friday, shooting 2-10 for five points but he did add 13 rebounds. The sheer presence of Aldridge has allowed the Trail Blazers to find their mojo again. At least we hope that is the case. Mo Williams had a game-high 18 points and the team seemed to be on the same page defensively once again. The Trail Blazers finish the season with six of their remaining eight games at home. Tonight will be the first of many important games at the Moda Center.
The Memphis Grizzlies are battling for a playoff spot. The problem is, so are a few other teams. Portland is in fifth place in the Western Conference while the Grizzlies hold on to a 1/2 game lead for the eighth and final playoff spot. The Grizzlies had a three-game winning streak snapped in Oakland on Friday. Memphis seemed to have the game wrapped up only to watch the Warriors close the game on a 14-0 run en route to a 100-93 win. This game will be gritty and physical. Should be fun in P-Town tonight.
Portland Trail Blazers:
- Joel Freeland is still out with an MCL sprain.
- Quincy Pondexter is out with a stress fracture in his right foot.
Keys To The Game
LaMarcus Aldridge vs. Zach Randolph. Could the key match-up focus be anywhere else? The power forwards will be ready to play. Aldridge got a day’s rest and is prepared to carry his team into the postseason. As mentioned, his presence on the court helps the overall performance of the team. In the seven games Aldridge was forced to sit out, the Trail Blazers went 3-4. I have no doubt this team is in some sort of groove. Let’s hope it continues tonight. Zach Randolph loves playing the Trail Blazers, especially in Portland. In the first meeting this season which was played in Portland, Randolph had 23 points and 10 rebounds. His highest career point average comes against Portland at 20.7 points. Which player can lead their team to victory?
Score Over 90 Points. It’s no secret the Grizzlies are a tough defensive team. Most of their games are low scoring and it plays into their favor. The magic number for them this season is 90. When they allow 90 points or more on the road, the Grizzlies are 4-14. They boast a tremendous 16-1 record on the road when they hold opponents under 90 points. It seems to be a no brainer that for the Trail Blazers to have a chance to win, they must get the offense going and run the score up.
Bench Production. The regular season is winding down and everyone is tired. Especially the starting five for the Trail Blazers. This squad always puts in a lot of minutes through the season due to a lack of depth. This season has been a little different with the addition of Mo Williams, Dorell Wright, and Thomas Robinson. Yet it seems like it’s the same old story; lack of depth and consistent bench production. Tonight, and going into the final stretch, it will be important for the reserves to play well in order to give the starters a breather. Mo Williams has that pep back in his step but who else will follow? Let’s see if another reserve can step up and make an impact tonight.