Trail Mix: Grizzlies 98, Blazers 92
The Memphis Grizzlies made a 13-point comeback on Sunday night against the Portland Trail Blazers 98-92. First and foremost, Monday night was about honoring a legend. Jerome Kersey’s passing earlier in the week devastated not only the Blazers organization, but the entire city of Portland. At the Blazers offices, they cried. Outside the Moda Center, a memorial was born. At John’s Marketplace in Southwest Portland, they also memorialized him. And Sunday, the Blazers pulled out all of the stops. But perhaps no moment was more emotional than when the time came for the national anthem. [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7vjaXSq9G34] (Hat-tip to Dane Carbaugh of The Sporting News) The Blazers came out playing inspired and had an 11-point first half lead. But in a foreshadowing of things to come, the Grizzlies made a furious run to end the first half and go into halftime tied at 38. The Grizzlies have had their way with the Blazers this season. LaMarcus Aldridge or not, the Grizzlies have put it on the Blazers this season. The Grizzlies have outscored the Blazers by nearly 10 points per 100 possessions, scoring over 111 points per 100 possessions. Portland’s offense hasn’t performed well against Memphis this year either. When they need to, the Grizzlies dominate the Blazers. As we noted in tonight’s gamer, the Blazers defense in the clutch has basically been non-existent. In the last 4:30, the Blazers were outscored 13-7. The finished ruined a good game from Nicolas Batum, who had 17 points, nine rebounds and five assists. Portland’s offense was inept towards the end of the game and Damian Lillard, who lit the nets on fire in the 3rd quarter, put up a goose-egg in the fourth quarter. Lillard, who was leading the NBA in fourth quarter scoring, was quiet. Memphis’ Tony Allen had something to do with that. “You saw the game didn’t you?” Allen replied when asked what changed with the defense on Lillard in the fourth quarter. “Okay then. Well, you know, I was put in, that was my assignment. I had to go in there and compete with (Lillard). With the help of my teammates and my great team defensive schemes that we have I was able to go and make it difficult for him a few possessions. For the most part you have to credit our team.” Of course, without Aldridge, it was easier to key on Lillard. And according to Memphis coach Dave Joerger, it may have been why Wesley Matthews had just four points. “The problem was early we didn’t guard the ball very well,” Joerger said. “Then they get the kick out 3’s. The kick out 3’s are the ones that kill you. And you guys know this, Wes Matthews, he’s a very very good shooter and hurt us a lot and does a very good job of playing off LaMarcus Aldridge. I know he struggled a bit tonight.” The Grizzlies simply did everything better. “We scored on 10 of our first 13 possessions to start the fourth quarter and we got stops on 15 of our last 18 possessions of the fourth quarter,” Joerger said. The fourth quarter score was 34-15. The Blazers also integrated Arron Afflalo into the rotation Sunday for the first time. Afflalo scored on his first touch and received a standing ovation for his first minutes. But as expected, there were some kinks that still need working out. Afflalo and Blake flashed some chemistry together but it seemed like he and the rest of the Blazers just need more time, especially Matthews and Batum. After the game, Stotts stated that he wanted get Afflalo’s minutes up. And Afflalo talked about the difficulty of developing chemistry from scratch. “It’s not difficult in the sense of people’s willingness to do it,” Afflalo said. “But the truth is you have to get some experience with it. It’s not going to be perfection in a day one. That’s the dream picture is day one picture is perfect and we roll. The truth is it’s going to take a little bit of time, a little bit of experience.” The Blazers are basically guaranteed a playoff spot at this point. But developing chemistry will be a major key to their success come playoff time. Notes:
- Aldridge’s injury is “not serious” according to Terry Stotts. Stotts also confirmed that Aldridge had tests done on his hand. “He’s had tests,” Stotts said. “I doubt that he has anymore. Its not serious but there’s still pain.” Aldridge elected not to get surgery earlier this season on his left thumb. Stotts said the Blazers are hopeful that he will play on Wednesday against the San Antonio Spurs.
- On the difficulty of playing late without Aldridge: “Well, LA is the guy we go to when we’re struggling. The fact that we didn’t have him the fourth quarter, that’s pretty obviously. When he’s he’s not there, we’ve got to be able to create some offense for each other. I thought that we moved the ball well when we go out our lead and it came off good ball movement and good shotmaking. I thought that wasn’t quite the same, but you have to hadn it to them. They played good defense but we didn’t necessarily play the same way.”
- Damian Lillard said Portland didn’t match Memphis’ intensity: “When you’re in that type of game against one of the best teams in the league, you got to match their level of intensity. We did for 3 quarters. We played well. Then down the stretch we just didn’t execute very well. We didn’t get really good looks. We didn’t defend them well enough. They were scoring and we were coming down not getting much done.”
- Lillard said that Memphis did a better job of executing actions on the weakside later in the game to keep Portland honest. “I think we defended well but at the end of the game they were dropping it to the bigs and they kept the action going on on the weakside. We couldn’t sit there and really help. So they had us spaced out. Z-Bo made a few shots. Then they got into a few pick and rolls. And because they kept us spaced out with other actions on the weak side. Gasol was rolling into the middle of the paint just getting good looks. You know, they executed better than we did.”
- The Blazers ran plays for Afflalo often on Sunday. He said he got comfortable after making some free-throws on his way to eight points and four rebounds. “Not necessarily being uncomfortable but just having that swagger and that confidence that I’m ready to be a little more demanding and a little more commanding of the ball and things of that nature. I’ll figure out how to do that overall and not have to wait for shots to go in.”