Blazers freeze up, then fall late
PORTLAND — The resiliency is still there. But the Portland Trail Blazers could use a little luck.
Portland watched an eight-point lead over the Memphis Grizzlies with nearly 4 minutes left in the game suddenly disappear Tuesday night at the Rose Garden.
And while the Blazers managed just one point during the remainder of the contest, the Grizzlies combined grit with fortune to down Portland, 109-105, before a sold-out crowd of 20,278.
The Blazers missed six jump shots and one key free throw down the stretch, while adding two major turnovers.
“We had a game that we let slip away,” Portland coach Nate McMillan said. “You’ve got to execute down the stretch.”
After fighting their way through injuries and setbacks for more than a month, the Blazers have now fallen in two consecutive games to teams they would be expected to defeat with a full, healthy roster.
And with NBA powerhouses such as the Los Angeles Lakers, Cleveland Cavaliers and Orlando Magic looming on Portland’s schedule in the next four games, Portland’s inability to execute during the final minutes of the fourth quarter against the Grizzlies magnified the loss.
Memphis ended the game on a 13-1 run, and used an 11-0 burst in the third quarter to rally from a 58-57 halftime deficit.
“We got control of the game,” McMillan said. “We (had) some shots we’ve got to knock down.”
Brandon Roy scored a co-game high 27 points and added nine assists for the Blazers, while Martell Webster poured in 21 points and hit five 3-pointers. Andre Miller contributed 16 points and 10 rebounds for Portland, and Juwan Howard and Jerryd Bayless added 13 points apiece.
With the loss, Portland (22-15) fell a game behind the Denver Nuggets for first place in the Northwest Division.
“It’s disappointing,” Roy said. “There’s really not much you can say.”
Zach Randolph and O.J. Mayo tied for a team high with 27 points to lead the Grizzlies (17-16), who moved over .500 for the first time since the end of the 2005-06 season.
“You’ve got to come and you’ve got to play and you’ve got to battle and you have to compete,” Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said. “And they rose up in the last couple of minutes and came back and got that win.”
Portland held a 104-96 lead with 3:45 left in the fourth quarter.
But back-to-back tip-in baskets by Randolph pulled the Grizzlies within 104-101 with 2:20 to go.
And when Memphis’ O.J. Mayo turned a loose ball into a layup, it was tied at 104 with 30.5 left on the clock.
Mayo then stole the ball from Portland’s Brandon Roy on the ensuing possession. Roy was called for a foul during the play, and Mayo hit his first free throw before missing the next.
McMillan said the foul call was hard to stomach. Both Roy and Mayo were reaching for a loose, tipped ball, and neither made hard contact.
“That’s a big call late in the ball game,” McMillan said.
Down 106-104 with 4.3 seconds remaining, the Blazers had an opportunity to tie the contest. However, Jerryd Bayless’ first free-throw attempt rattled around the rim before falling out. Bayless hit his second, but the make ignited the end of Portland’s night.
The Portland guard was supposed to miss the shot, McMillan said. However, Bayless was not notified about the play call until it was too late, and the Blazers were left with too little time to make a difference.
“We wanted him to miss it,” McMillan said.
The Grizzlies recorded 54 points in the paint, a number McMillan referred to as being a “killer.”
“I mean we just got pounded — really, the last two nights — in the paint,” McMillan said.
Portland committed only two first-half turnovers. … The Blazers shot 61 percent from the field in the first half. … Miller recorded his second consecutive double-double. … Webster’s five made 3-pointers gave him 342 for his career. In the process, Webster moved past Derek Anderson for seventh all time in Blazer history. Rasheed Wallace ranks sixth with 373.
Best Blazer: Brandon Roy tied for a game high with 27 points.
Big numbers: Memphis collected 54 points in the paint, two above its season average.