Blazing Babbles: Three Points to emphasize
The Trail Blazers matched grit for grit with the Memphis Grizzlies tonight for a 86-84 win inside the FedEx Forum. They locked down and beat the Griz at the their own game, the Blazers also remained true to themselves.
So in honor of the Blazers’ 27 attempted threes, let’s break this win down in three points.
Show me a better all-around defensive performance. The first Sacramento win comes to mind, the last home win over Philadelphia also ranks high, but I have to put this one at the top.
Grant it, Zach Randolph did not play, so the Griz missed a key offensive player while shooting 32 of 81 for the game. In his place, Marreese Speights started and imitated Z-Bo by scoring 16 points through the third quarter. Now, this is why I bring up the defense. Although Speights got out for easy scores through the third, that freeway to the rim clogged up in the fourth quarter.
Speights was 0 for 4 in the final quarter and the Blazers forced Memphis into 5-of-22 shooting to end the game. Portland wasn’t much better, shooting just 19 percent (4 of 21) but beat Memphis at its own game. In the final seconds when the better-rebounding Grizzlies scrambled for the offensive board, the Blazers came away with it. When LaMarcus Aldridge could not handle Mike Conley’s miss, he inadvertently deflected the ball to Nicolas Batum near the baseline. While falling out of bounds, Batum made the smart play by throwing it off Conley with 3.1 seconds remaining. The Blazers maintained possession, inbounded to Aldridge and he hit one of two free throws – not great, but good enough to give the Blazers the 86-84 lead.
Strong games from Aldridge (15 points, 12 rebounds) and J.J. Hickson (19 points and 11 rebounds) and even stronger when considering they grabbed those boards against the beef Memphis goes with in its front line Memphis’ (7-foot-1 Marc Gasol, 6-9 Darrell Arthur, 7-2 Hamed Haddadi).
Wesley Matthews, bum hip and all, played the entire third quarter and was the reason it was a tied game, 72-72, entering the final frame.
On a night when the other Blazers were launching but not hitting those 3-pointers, Matthews dropped in three from distance during the third quarter and scored 11 points.
He finished 8 of 14 (5-for-8 beyond the arc) for 21 points.
Good to see Matthews moving well – against a tremendous one-on-one defender such as Tony Allen, no less – after the hip injury limited him through much of December.
And the most important point of the night: the Blazers, 17-15 overall and seventh in the Western Conference standings, have a chance to turn this four-game road trip into a very successful trek. One more game tomorrow in Minnesota, and the Timberwolves could be missing both Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio. Another advantageous scenario for the Blazers but still a challenge. Remember what happened in Toronto after a win the previous night in New York?