Grizzlies-Trail Blazers Preview
The Memphis Grizzlies were one of the league’s hottest teams heading into the All-Star break, but experienced some trouble in their final two road games before that hiatus.
The Grizzlies have had fewer issues in some of their recent visits to Portland, but the Trail Blazers might get a boost from a pair of players who could make their team debuts Sunday night.
Memphis (39-14) has won 14 of 17 before getting some extended time off, which ends with the trip to Portland. The Grizzlies, though, were beaten handily in their final game heading into the break, 105-89 in Oklahoma City on Feb. 11, and dropped their final two road contests after winning a season-high five in a row there.
The Southwest Division leaders try to get back on track with their eighth win in nine matchups against the Blazers (36-18) and fifth in six visits in Portland.
"We need to come back after the break and be ready," forward Zach Randolph said. "It was a good first part of the season, but we can’t be satisfied. We’ve got to come back and be ready."
The Grizzlies have taken both meetings with the Blazers this season, beginning with a 112-99 win in Portland on Nov. 28. The teams had a more competitive game in Memphis on Jan. 17 with the home team pulling out a 102-98 victory.
Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley missed the latter matchup because of a sore ankle. He had 21 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists in the victory in Portland.
Marc Gasol had a team-best 26 points and matched a season high with nine assists.
Portland entered the break having won four of five but emerged with a lackluster showing in a 92-76 loss in Utah on Friday. The 76 points were the Blazers’ fewest since a 94-76 loss to Memphis on April 3, 2013, and they shot a season-low 36.1 percent.
The Northwest Division leaders didn’t have Arron Afflalo and Alonzo Gee available after they were acquired from Denver in a five-player deal at Thursday’s trade deadline. The Blazers sent Will Barton, Victor Claver, Thomas Robinson and a protected 2016 draft pick to the Nuggets.
Afflalo is the centerpiece of that deal but is averaging his fewest points (14.5) in four seasons while shooting at his worst (42.8 percent) since connecting at 41.1 percent in his 2007-08 rookie campaign with Detroit. He scored six points in each of his final three games with the Nuggets while missing a combined 16 of 24 shots, including all nine from 3-point range.
General manager Neil Olshey sees a player that can aid Portland’s push for its first title since 1976-77.
"I know he can help us," Olshey said. "We had a very specific set of criteria for anybody that we were going to acquire and Arron met every single criteria that we had established.
"I think our veteran players are happy to add him, it gives us a better chance to win at a high level. That’s the goal this year: we’re in a win-now mode."
Afflalo was held to seven points in a 99-69 loss in Memphis after scoring 23 in a 114-85 win in Denver on Jan. 3.
Wesley Matthews is averaging 25.5 points and shooting 52.9 percent in Portland’s two matchups with Memphis this season, including a 14-for-26 showing from 3-point range.