The Portland Trail Blazers have learned how difficult it can be to hold on late against good teams after dropping the first two on their current five-game trip.
The Trail Blazers, who wasted fourth-quarter leads in the losses, continue the swing against the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday night.
Portland (42-21) has generally been a strong fourth-quarter team this season, ranking among the NBA’s best with an 80.7 free-throw percentage and 26.1 scoring average over the final 12 minutes of regulation.
That hasn’t been the case over the last few days for the Trail Blazers, who dropped back-to-back games in Texas – against Dallas on Friday and at Houston two nights later – behind some spotty play down the stretch.
Portland rallied from a 30-point deficit Friday against the Mavericks and held a seven-point advantage in the fourth before allowing Dallas to close with an 11-0 run for a 103-98 victory.
Blowing a late lead also happened against the Rockets, who outscored the Blazers 33-21 in the final quarter to send the game into overtime. Portland went scoreless over the final 2:15 of the extra period en route to a 118-113 loss.
In the two games, Portland was outscored by an average of 8.0 points during the fourth quarter, shooting 41.7 percent from the field and 75.0 percent from the foul line.
"That was a tough loss," coach Terry Stotts said in Houston. "A game that, I thought we did a good job of controlling it for a good part of it. We had our opportunities to win it. They made some tough shots. I thought we overcame some adversity and still put ourselves in a position to win, but we didn’t close it out."
LaMarcus Aldridge has done his job, averaging 29.0 points and 14.5 rebounds so far on a trip that takes the Blazers through all five cities in the Southwest Division. After Memphis, the team plays in San Antonio and at New Orleans before returning home.
Aldridge has struggled in his career against the Grizzlies, averaging 15.9 points in 24 games against them – his lowest total against any NBA opponent.
He had 27 when the team’s met Jan. 28, but the Blazers – who are among the NBA’s leaders at 107.7 points per game – scored a season low in the 98-81 defeat. Portland hit 34.5 percent of its attempts in that game, its second-worst sooting display this season.
Memphis (36-26) has won back-to-back games and four of its last five after knocking off Charlotte 111-89 on Saturday. The Grizzlies were again strong on the glass, holding a 51-40 rebounding edge.
A key to the team’s success lately has been balance. Eight different players scored at least eight points in the win, led by Mike Conley’s 20. Conley was 5 of 7 from 3-point range for Memphis, which had seven different players lead the team in scoring over its past seven games prior to beating the Bobcats.
"Everybody is pitching in, and we are going to need everybody to continue to do that for the remainder (of the season)," guard Tony Allen said. "Be ready when their number is called."
The Grizzlies have won four straight against the Trail Blazers.