The Portland Trail Blazers rolled into Memphis looking to snap a 2-game losing streak. Instead, they fell behind double-digits early, by 18 at the half, and by as many as 20 in a soul-draining struggle as the Grizzlies hardly missed a shot. However, in true Trail Blazers fashion, they turned the screws in the third and fourth quarters, slowly cutting the lead and getting to within two, but couldn’t get over the hump, and they fell to the Grizzlies 102-98. They are now 30-11 and have their first 3-game losing streak of the 2014-15 NBA season.
The Grizzlies came out firing, hitting their first nine shots as the Trail Blazers, who weren’t shooting all that bad themselves, were wondering if the Matrix was glitching. With incredible offense and tough Memphis-style defense, the Grizzlies had built a double-digit lead in the second quarter. They were keeping the Trail Blazers from second-chance shots, and the Memphis bench was shining as Portland’s was not.
Adding to the big pot of trouble stew that was brewing, Damian Lillard started the game 1-9, and he, along with almost every Blazer, was getting upset both with himself and the officiating.
Meyers Leonard took twice as many shots in the first half as Nicolas Batum, and even though LaMarcus Aldridge had 14 and Wesley Matthews was in double-digits, the Trail Blazers found themselves down 18 at the half.
The Trail Blazers started third with a bunch of stops, but turned it over, missed open looks, and got blocked directly at the rim. Yuck. The Memphis lead grew to 20 points, and it was like running in quicksand. Finally, as the Trail Blazers kept their defense locked down, they got it to 15 on a merciful Batum three… then were down to 11 halfway through the quarter. Their defense was noticeably more active, even as the offense was halting, and a 9-2 run and a second-chance three by Matthews cut the lead to 78-70 after three quarters.
Needing another push, the Trail Blazers instead found themselves being pushed around by Zach Randolph. Seeing the problem, Terry Stotts put Aldridge back in and Randolph was shut down. All the while Portland kept fighting, and with five minutes left were down just two points.
With both teams playing like it was Game 7, Lillard buried a three to cut it to keep it close, but Beno Udrih (who was 7-7 on the night) careened down the lane like a car missing a wheel and drew the foul. On the ensuing possession, he buried a contested jumper as the shot clock expired, putting the Trail Blazers down four with 35 seconds left. Despite a #LillardTime three to cut the lead once again, the Trail Blazers opted not to foul and Udrih canned another very tough shot to ice it. The Trail Blazers fell 102-98.
LaMarcus Aldridge has averaged over 30 points a game over the 3-game losing streak, and none of those losses are on him. He was an offensive and defensive force tonight, doing everything from blocking shots to drawing fouls seemingly at will. His impact went beyond the 32 points, nine boards, and three blocks he contributed.
Wesley Matthews passed Terry Porter and is now the Trail Blazers’ franchise leader in three pointers made. Congratulations, Wesley! He was 9-18 (7-14 from deep) tonight while adding four rebounds. Quite the bounce-back game after last night.
Damian Lillard struggled mightily early, but had some incredible moments later on, and some threes as time was running out that almost got the Blazers the win. 23-6-6 looks incredible, but he needed 26 shots to get there.
Chris Kaman had 11 rebounds, but has been so easily stripped at the rim, that his offense has been too hit or miss to be measurably beneficial at times.
Nicolas Batum had 12 points… over the last three games combined. Before tonight, the last time he went three games without scoring six points since 2010. In this one, he was 1-6 for three points, two boards, three dimes, a steal, a block, a turnover, and a gaping crater in the Trail Blazers offense where he used to be. No need to beat a dead horse any more on this one, he just needs to play better.
The Trail Blazers get a comparative powder puff as they go back home to face the Sacramento Kings on Monday January 19th at 7:00 p.m. PST.