Grizzlies-Trail Blazers Preview
The Memphis Grizzlies have proven nearly unbeatable over the last month thanks to a continued emphasis on defense.
They put on a stingy performance against the Portland Trail Blazers less than a week ago.
Seeking a 13th victory in 14 games, Memphis hopes to have leading scorer Zach Randolph available as it opens a four-game road trip Tuesday night against Portland.
Holding opponents to an NBA-low 89.4 points per contest, the Grizzlies (42-19) have allowed an even more impressive 84.7 over their last nine.
"Being consistent is probably the biggest thing," coach Lionel Hollins said. "Possession after possession, we come down and we don't make a lot of mistakes on defense."
Memphis is coming off its fourth consecutive victory, 96-85 over New Orleans on Saturday. Mike Conley had 22 points to lead seven players in double figures as the Grizzlies posted their sixth straight victory over a Western Conference foe - their longest such run in almost two years.
"Everyone is focused in trying to get the win," swingman Quincy Pondexter said. "That's all we care about. No one cares about scoring 30, we just care about getting wins."
The Grizzlies outscored the Hornets 31-19 in the third quarter. They have held their last three opponents to a combined 29.3 percent shooting in the third and outscored them by an average of 12.0 points.
"I think our focus coming out of halftime, understanding what we need to adjust, then going out and executing it, has been phenomenal," said Conley, averaging 19.7 points - 6.1 more than his season mark - over the last three games.
"We came in the locker room and said: 'We have to do this, that and this,' and we go out there and do it."
Memphis surely had a similar game plan against Portland (29-33) after falling behind Wednesday. The Grizzlies trailed by 12 at the break and 17 in the third quarter before holding the Blazers to 35 second-half points in a 91-85 win.
Portland won this season's first matchup, 86-84 on the road Jan. 4.
While the Blazers haven't had to worry about containing Randolph in either of those games, the All-Star forward could be available Tuesday. Averaging team highs of 15.7 points and 11.6 points, Randolph has missed the last four games due to an ankle injury.
Two nights after blowing out West-leading San Antonio 136-106, Portland concluded a three-game trip with Sunday's 98-96 loss to New Orleans. Wesley Matthews scored 24 points and Damian Lillard added 20 for the Blazers, who gave up the go-ahead layup with 1.8 seconds to go.
"We were in a position to win a couple of times and we just didn't come up with a rebound or get a stop that we needed," said coach Terry Stotts, whose team was outrebounded 48-30. "It's disappointing to be in that situation and not come away with a win."
Portland has been outscored by an average of 3.6 points over its last five losses.
The Blazers surely like their chances of bouncing back at home, where they've won seven of nine. Portland has taken three straight and seven of nine from Memphis on its own court.
Leading the Blazers with 20.6 points per game, LaMarcus Aldridge appeared to roll his ankle Sunday but should be available in this game. He's been limited to an average of 12.5 points on 25.0 percent shooting against the Grizzlies this season.