Blazers, 110, Grizzlies, 98

Portland came out hot. Again they made the curious start...with Roy, Webster, and Aldridge on the floor they ran plays for Frye on the first 2 possessions. To his credit, he did score on one of them...

The Blazers were scoring early, tallying 15 before the 6 minute mark. Then they went cold. For quite some time. They ended the first quarter with just 24 points...and gave up 26 to take a deficit into the second quarter. Gausol was killing them, along with Gay. At one point the Grizzlies had 41 points...and 22 of those were by Gay or Gausol who seemingly could not be stopped.

For most of the second quarter their funk continued and the deficit grew to 15. And it was mostly on offense.

It wasn't that Memphis was playing exceptional defense. Portland simply missed shot after shot they normally make. Roy had a miserable quarter, missing several shots from his favorite foul-line extended. Outlaw continued his string of bad outings with a few misses and a lot of frenetic defense that ended with him badly out of position.

Portland made a bit of a run to pull within 7 points with the ball...and gave up a 5-0 run to end the half down 61-49.

The third quarter started poorly with a couple missed shots. The natives were getting restless. McMillan called a time-out. And it felt like Portland came alive. They went on a bit of a run fueled by defense. Roy had 2 or 3 steals, Aldridge and Przybilla blocked seemingly everything the Grizzlies put up and the result was a 10 point gain for Portland, pulling within 2, 76-74 at the end of the third quarter.

The 4th quarter was more of the same. Jack was scoring well, Roy took over, Aldridge scored seemingly at will. Meanwhile, at the other end they had slowed Gausol to a crawl, though Gay was still scoring time after time as he got wide open looks. However, the rest of the Grizzlies all but took the night off.

Finally a 3 by Jack put the game out of reach and the Blazers coasted home.

How did my predictions fare? Well...I headlined it "There will be chalupas" indicating I thought the Blazers would score at least a hundred and added "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.

I am pretty pleased with that. Memphis did miss by two, scoring "only" 98 points...but Portland did hit the 110 mark, both teams made multiple runs and Portland racked up a 12 point win. I also mentioned my fear this would be the game Gausol broke out. It was. Early on he was carrying the Grizzlies as Frye, Aldridge, and Przybilla took turns trying to stop him, all unsuccessfully. I gave the Grizzlies the edge at center, and from an offensive standpoint they indeed did.

I was incorrect about who would start for the Grizzlies at power was Milicic. As far as Aldridge...I said, and I quote, so look for Aldridge to have a big night. If tying your career high for points with 30, racking up 10 boards, having 3 huge, key blocks, and even dishing out 3 assists is a big night...then yes, I nailed it. He came up HUGE. He definitely gave the Blazers a huge edge at the power forward position.

I was right and wrong about the small forward. Rudy Gay started at the 3...and I wrongly predicted, "... Rudy Gay, coming off a big game against Seattle. One problem young players face is consistency, so look for ...Gay to struggle a bit." Whoops. Gay did not exactly struggle. Outside of Gausol, he was the only Grizzly that came to play. Every time the Blazers made a run Gay would hit a three or drop inside for a dunk, dropping in a game high 31. He and Gausol combined for 50 points...the Grizzlies only tallied 98. That tells you how well Gay played.

Meanwhile, Webster had a "quiet" 17. Early in the game he got a couple looks. He missed his first couple shots, but then started hitting. When the Blazers were struggling to find the bucket they seldom looked to him but when they did he delivered. He finished 5-10 from the field (including 3-6 from 3 point range). Why did he only have 10 shots? Good question.

I am not sure the Blazers realize what they have in Webster. All too often they send him to stand in the corner, then run the offense on the other side of the floor. He stands there wide open shooting 50% FROM BEYOND THE ARC and they never look at him.

When they are struggling for offense as they did from mid-way through the first quarter through almost the end of the second, they really need to run a play or two for him and/or on his side of the floor. He has the potential to be a 20 point scorer if they let him.

But this was an advantage for the Grizzlies as Gay was unstoppable and Webster was barely used. I would like to see him getting 15 - 20 shots a game. Take them away from Frye, whom I am less and less a fan of every time I see him.

Shooting guard was no contest. Roy had a typical night...slow scoring in the first half, but helping other ways, then in the second half taking over. He had several steals leading to fast breaks in the run that caught the Blazers up, hit a trey and gave Aldridge a couple of dunks. After a slow start shooting he finished 9-19 with 22 points, 8 assists. The best the Grizzlies could counter with was their third leading scorer, Lowry, with 14 points on just 3-8 shooting....and Lowry did double up Roy on rebounds but Roy did a better job of distributing the ball.

And at the point Blake had his usual efficient game, 7 points and 8 assists. He didn't take a lot of shots, but the ones he did take were key. I am becoming more of a fan.

I am not sure what to call the bench. Portland's bench struggled for the most part offensively. Outlaw was lost on defense, Przybilla didn't tally a point and Rodriguez could only add a deuce. Only Jack was much help...and he must love coming off the bench because he scored an explosive 21 points. But Memphis still outscored Portland from the bench, 31-28. So statistically it was almost a draw.

I did see one other thing that makes me nervous. Portland was running a zone most of the night. It was not particularly effective. Gay was having a huge night, yet again and again and again the Blazers would leave him open for a three and when they weren't letting him set up shop they were letting the Grizzlies inside for offensive rebounds. Lowry alone had does that happen? And the Grizzlies as a team rolled up 15, way too many. The zone was not particularly effective for most of the game. We will see if it gets better.

In the end it was a great game for the Blazers as they came back from a 15 point deficit to win handily with big performances from their stars and a second consecutive big game from Jack. If this continues they will be on the right track.

At the same time, Outlaw is going to be key to keeping the momentum going. If he continues to look lost on defense and struggle on defense it will be a huge blow to the Blazers as they are getting better but still have to have everything break right to beat the really good teams.

There will be Chalupas:1-2 Memphis at 1-3 Portland

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.


Power Forward
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.

Edge: Portland

Small Forward
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.


Shooting Guard
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.

Edge: Portland

Point Guard
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.

Edge: Even

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.

Edge: Portland

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.