Memphis could not win at home but they found the cure for their weakness; playing Seattle. And it did not really matter they were playing in Seattle...the Sonics, frankly, are terrible.
Memphis showed some fire in that game, coming back from a 14 point deficit to take the win. For the first time this season, they will come into a game with a bit of confidence. They are young, they are hungry...and they are over matched.
So far this year they are giving up over 107 points a game...and 2 of those 3 games were played at home! So Portland will have chances to score. Of course, Memphis is also scoring at a clip of a shade over 105 points, so defense will be needed as well. They even rang up 101 against the Spurs, no defensive slouches, and carried a 3 point lead into the 4th quarter before they finally were held under the magic 25 point mark. Portland has done a nice job of keeping people under the century mark but it will be a struggle against the Grizzlies.
Memphis follows the New Orleans pattern. They have skill players capable of going off for 25 or 30 points...Stoudemire, Gay, Gausol, Miller...but they do it with balance. 6 players are currently averaging double digits, led by Rudy Gay and his 18 point average, though that was boosted a bit by his 25 point explosion against Seattle.
So Portland is playing a team that competed well at home against the Spurs, got run off the court by the Pacers, and beat a bad Seattle team. It should be a high-scoring affair that will be fun to watch.
Channing Frye will get the start for Portland against Pau Gausol. Frye struggled a lot against New Orleans but will get another chance. Meanwhile, Gasol has been struggling all years, posting career lows in points, shooting percentage, blocks, and assists... he is too good a player for that to continue. Blazer fans will simply hope he does not pick tonight to make his coming out party.
Portland is better set to face him this year with a healthy Przybilla and Frye as opposed to last year's slow-footed Magloire and the cast of out of position players that Gausol ran rampant on last year. The bench battle will be interesting with Przybilla seeing a good dose of Darko Milicic, the player the Grizzlies hope has a breakout season.
Aldridge had a rough night against the Hornets, but that was largely because the Blazers did not go to him enough. When they did he was efficient and scored well. I like his game more every time I see him play because he not only does so many things well...from working on the boards to running the floor to knocking down the mid-range jumpers...but he does it with a smile. One play in particular stood out where he was called for a phantom foul. On a night where you are playing whiners and complainers like the Hornets, it is easy to fall into that trap...but LA just ran back up court with a big smile on his face. He loves to play and has fun doing it. I like that.
He will be facing up and coming Rudy Gay, coming off a big game against Seattle. One problem young players face is consistency, so look for Aldridge to have a big night and Gay to struggle a bit.
It is possible he will instead match up with Miller. If so, the edge gets bigger.
I probably should slot Gay here and Miller at power forward...I don't know Memphis well enough to be accurate. Either way, Webster is having a break-out year. When the team figures out how to get him the ball more consistently it will get even bigger. In a game like this, he could easily go for 20 -25 points, maybe even more if the Blazers keep feeding the ball to him. Against the Hornets he scored 3 quick buckets, then they stopped running plays for him for 2 quarters. When they went back to him, he produced. Portland needs to realize he is their third meal ticket after Aldridge and Roy and keep him shooting.
Miller will have his normal solid game, somewhere between a dozen and 20 points...I know that is a broad range, but he seems to fall in there pretty consistently.
There will be very few nights this year where this is not an advantage for Portland. Brandon Roy is the face of the franchise, at least until Oden arrives and shows he is what is expected. Roy scores, rebounds a bit, passes a bit, and just generally helps the team in a variety of ways. And at the end of the game when Portland needs a score, he is tremendous at penetrating and either scoring, getting to the line, or kicking out to a wide open shooter. Aldridge and Webster have both hit key buckets off his penetration-kick out action and this holds great promise for the future.
The Grizzlies have great hopes for Kyle Lowry but he just isn't on Roy's level. He will score less, rebound less, set his teammates up for easy scores less...he is a serviceable player, but nothing special.
Stoudemire has traveled a bit for someone as talented as he is. Now he is the team Captain for the Grizzlies. Make your own joke here about the leadership capabilities of someone using tinfoil to smuggle marijuana past airport security...
I admit to a soft spot in my heart for Stoudemire despite his problems. He came home to Portland, did some nice inner city work, and, while undersized, played his heart out. He is not the player he once was, but is still capable of explosions on any given night.
Meanwhile, Blake did a nice job of running the team against the Hornets and seems to fit the starting line-up better than Jack. He will probably never be an All-Star, but Portland does not need one here at this point. If Blake continues to play a little defense, distribute the ball, and make the occasional jumper or three to stretch the defense he will have done a good job.
Portland has potential firepower off the bench. Jack had the game I have been waiting for all season, scoring 20 off the bench. Przybilla gets a few points off broken plays and offensive rebounds and Outlaw, when he is on, can give you 15 - 20 points. He has been struggling the last few games, but against a team like the Grizzlies that gives up points in huge chunks, he should get healthy.
Milicic and Swift are about all Memphis can counter with. Swift is having a down year so far but he can still play. Overall, the Grizzlies will have to ride their starters pretty hard.
Look for both teams to score a lot of points...this game should see both eclipse the century mark and don't be surprised if they even top 110. It will be a fun game to watch with both teams making runs as their youth shows through. Portland will win by double digits.
Portland Trail Blazers at Cleveland Cavaliers: TV channel, game preview, how to watch live stream - The Portland Trail Blazers visit the Cleveland on Wednesday at Quicken Loans Arena.
5 months ago