McMillan challenges Blazers’ captains after loss to Grizzlies

PORTLAND — Zach Randolph laughed and smiled. All while sinking shots, toying with the crowd, and looking comfortable and at ease while visiting his former home, the Rose Garden.

As for his old team? The Portland Trail Blazers were an uncharacteristic mess.

They lacked emotion, energy and passion. And nearly two quarters elapsed before the Blazers showed significant interest in playing a game many expected would be a cakewalk.
By then, it was too late. Randolph and the Grizzlies were storming the court. And one of Portland’s worst performances of the season resulted in a 106-96 defeat Friday evening at the Rose Garden before a sold-out crowd of 20,540.

“There was no energy out there that first half,” Blazers (12-6) coach Nate McMillan said. “That team comes in here and jumps on us like that. There was no energy at all. I thought most of the game there was no energy. And there’s really no excuse.”

Portland’s Brandon Roy scored a game-high 26 points while adding nine assists and eight rebounds. Martell Webster poured in 24 points and tied a career high with six made 3-pointers, while LaMarcus Aldridge scored 16 points and Andre Miller and Greg Oden added 13 apiece.

But Roy and Aldridge combined to shoot 16 of 38 from the field, while the Blazers hit just 40.7 percent (33 of 81) of their field-goal attempts.

Meanwhile, the Grizzlies shot 53.8 percent (43 of 80) from the floor and outscored Portland 54-34 in the paint.

Following the disappointing loss, McMillan challenged Roy and Aldridge — the Blazers’ captains — to inspire a better effort from their team.

McMillan said he was not calling the duo out. But he made his point clear: Portland follows its leaders, and the Blazers went nowhere Friday night.

“They are the guys we feed off of. They are the guys who can do a lot of encouraging and support,” McMillan said. “And we need that. We need that. We’re going to play off of them.”

Roy responded to McMillan’s challenge by stating that the Blazers’ poor shooting and a hot Memphis squad presented Portland with a first-half hurdle that was too tall to overcome. And while he said that he and Aldridge have to ensure that Portland is always ready to go, he felt the Blazers played well once the team settled in.

“We can’t spot an NBA team that many points,” Roy said.

Memphis outscored Portland 29-15 in the first quarter and took a 61-39 advantage into halftime. The Grizzlies’ total points through the first two quarters were the most the Blazers have allowed to any team this season.

Randolph scored a team-high 21 points to top the Grizzlies (6-10), while Marc Gasol and O.J. Mayo scored 19 apiece.

“It was an awesome performance from start to finish,” said Memphis coach Lionel Hollins, who added that his team’s outing was “beautiful.”

The Blazers’, however, was not. And the team’s reaction to the loss produced a mix big of responses best captured by Roy.

“I don’t think it’s anything like guys are not playing hard,” he said. “It’s just guys are still a little confused and trying to figure out things.

“For me as a player, I can keep playing. It seems like every game has a different rhythm, and until we get one rhythm and find our identity as a team, this will happen.”

Meanwhile, Miller said Portland’s defense was the main issue, and stated that the Blazers were hit quick, responded slow and then lost control.

“You’re supposed to win those games,” Miller said.

McMillan said before the game he wanted Portland to push the tempo and turn Memphis turnovers into fast-break points.

The Blazers initially did neither. Portland looked flat and uninspired at the start, and Memphis took a 32-15 lead following a 21-0 Grizzlies run spurred by Randolph and Mayo.

Asked whether the Blazers’ lack of effort and energy represented a pattern shown in a Nov. 20 blowout loss to the Golden State Warriors and a near defeat Nov. 18 to the Detroit Pistons, McMillan saw a deeper issue.

“I’ve said this a few times this year and I didn’t have to say this — maybe once — last year: Our effort is not where it needs to be to win some games,” he said. “We’ve been able to win some games, but our effort and scrappiness and hunger and attitude is not where it needs to be for us to really win; win big.”

He added: “I don’t get that.”

Blazers guard Steve Blake did not record a point and had as many turnovers (two) as assists in more than 23 minutes of action. … Memphis’ 21-0 run tied a franchise record. … Portland’s bench was outscored 29-17. …The Blazers’ 12-6 record is the same the team held 18 games into last season. … Portland’s six-game home winning streak ended with Friday’s defeat. … Roy’s nine assists were a season high.

Best Blazer: Martell Webster tied a career high with six made 3-pointers and scored 24 points.
Big numbers: Memphis outscored Portland 54-34 in the paint.

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