Trail Blazers-Grizzlies Preview
Top competition has bothered the Portland Trail Blazers, and their last two games have driven that point home.
The Memphis Grizzlies can further those concerns Saturday night by handing the visiting Trail Blazers their first three-game losing streak of the season.
Of the Blazers’ 30 wins, 23 have come against opponents with current records under .500, including eight of their last nine. Eight of their 10 losses have come against teams with winning records.
Against the vaunted Western Conference, Portland (30-10) is 13-8 while going 17-2 against the East.
It is 12-6 on the road, but only one of those wins has come against a winning team – a 129-119 triple-overtime victory in San Antonio on Dec. 19 with the Spurs missing Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard.
Terry Stotts’ team wasn’t as fortunate in Friday’s 110-96 loss in San Antonio, which came two days after a 100-94 home loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. Stotts recognized the difference in competition this time around.
"Obviously getting Leonard back and Patty Mills and Parker, none of those guys played last time we played them and all three of them made an impact on the game," Stotts said.
LaMarcus Aldridge had 24 points, Damian Lillard added 23, and the Blazers shot 50.0 percent and lost for the first time in six games while doing so. Wesley Matthews was held to two points and has totaled 10 in the consecutive losses while going 4 of 17 from the field.
Memphis (28-11), meanwhile, returns home with a three-game winning streak after Friday’s 106-96 victory in Orlando.
Jeff Green scored a team-high 21 points in a reserve role as the newly acquired forward overcame a poor shooting night in his Grizzlies debut in Brooklyn on Wednesday. He’ll now be on display before a Memphis crowd for the first time.
Green’s effort came with point guard Mike Conley sidelined with a sprained right ankle, which could again be the case against Portland.
"We just got Jeff (Green) and we have a little winning streak going," Conley told the team’s official website. "We want to build some momentum going into the All-Star break. I am going to try and get back as soon as I can. I am going to say day to day right now. I would love to play tomorrow and hopefully I will be feeling 122 percent better tomorrow morning."
Prior to the winning streak, Dave Joerger’s team had lost seven of 11. It’s still seeking improvement from 3-point range, where the Grizzlies are 6 of 31 (19.4 percent) in the last two games. Green has done little to help that cause with an 0-for-7 mark in two games and a 0-for-14 drought dating to his time with Boston.
"Right now, his jumper’s struggling because I think, you know ‘Is this my shot? Should I take this at this time? I’m playing with Marc (Gasol), I’m playing with Zach (Randolph) or should I put in?’" Joerger said. "Nobody can think and shoot at the same time. I don’t know if he’s a 50 percent shooter from three or not, but I think his shooting perimeter numbers will go up."
The Grizzlies are 17-6 against the West and have won six of seven in the series with Portland while limiting it to 91.7 points on 41.2 percent. That includes a 112-99 road victory over the Blazers on Nov. 28.
Matthews had 26 while hitting 7 of 12 from beyond the arc, but Memphis shot 53.6 percent with Gasol scoring 26. Conley narrowly missed his first career triple-double with 21 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists.