Trail Blazers-Grizzlies Preview

Given their recent dominance at home, the Memphis Grizzlies know

how valuable fourth place in the Western Conference would be.

A matchup with the slumping Portland Trail Blazers could help

them inch closer to securing that spot.

Seeking a ninth consecutive win at FedExForum, Memphis squares

off against a Portland team looking to snap its longest losing

streak of the season Saturday night.

Winners of 11 of 14 overall, the Grizzlies (38-25) locked up no

worse than the fifth seed Friday, concluding their road schedule

with a 85-80 victory over Charlotte. Mike Conley posted team highs

of 20 points and seven assists while Zach Randolph scored 14 off

the bench for Memphis, which moved within a game of the Los Angeles

Clippers, current owners of the fourth seed and home-court

advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

“This was one we needed,” Conley said. “This was a big win for

us. We locked up the fifth spot and now we have a shot at the

fourth seed, so we needed this win.”

While the Clippers’ remaining schedule includes visits to

Atlanta and New York, the Grizzlies could have a leg up with three

in a row at home. Memphis, which hosts Cleveland and Orlando

following this contest, hasn’t lost at home in more a month,

winning eight in a row while limiting opponents to an average of

91.0 points.

Offensively, the Grizzlies are averaging 103.3 points on 49.8

percent shooting over their last three home games. They haven’t won

nine straight on their own floor since a franchise-best 11-game run

Dec. 18-Jan. 25, 2010.

Two nights after being officially eliminated from postseason

contention with a 125-107 loss at Phoenix, Portland (28-35)

suffered its fourth straight defeat Wednesday, falling 112-91 in

its home finale to Utah.

“I’ll continue to say it. I believe it – we do have the

best fans in the world,” interim coach Kaleb Canales told the

Blazers’ official website. “It’s been a challenging season for us

but we appreciate what they mean to us.”

Despite being assured of their first losing record since going

32-50 in 2006-07, the Blazers seem upbeat as they open a

season-ending three-game road trip that also includes visits to San

Antonio and Utah.

“To be honest with you, I’m really excited, because this is

being thrown into the fire for our guys because we’re playing three

teams that are battling for playoff positions,” Canales added.

“It’s an exciting time for us.”

The Blazers, who last week shut down LaMarcus Aldridge for the

rest of the season due to a right hip injury, will also be without

Joel Przybilla (bronchitis) and Raymond Felton (personal reasons)

in this one.

Portland had won eight straight at Memphis before falling 86-73

in its last visit Dec. 13, 2010. The Blazers have taken three

straight overall matchups in this series – all at the Rose


Guard Lester Hudson was inactive Friday night after signing with

the Grizzlies earlier in the day. His status for this game is