Wow. After pulling through against the Warriors last night in what may have been our "best" win of the season (at least we can call it the hardest fought win, right?), we now face our toughest challenge in this current 8-game swing tonight against the Portland Trail Blazers.
Sure, maybe beating the Chicago Bulls was a "bigger" win, but when you consider we did so without having to face the reigning MVP, Derrick Rose, in that one, this has to be our toughest game of the streak. Against the Blazers we get a team who has one home loss on the season (against the Orlando Magic) with a power forward who might be among the early favorites for MVP in LaMarcus Aldridge. This one is going to be tough. Oh, and did I mention we're coming off a hard-fought win against the Warriors.... last night! Oh, yeah, I did.
What we need to do to keep this streak alive is to, of course, play our game, and hope that we can keep the non-Aldridge Blazers in check. You know that Aldridge is going to get his 25 and 10, but we can limit the damage if we can keep guys like Crawford and Matthews going off for 20-plus points. Also, with Marcus Camby (groin) likely out we'll have to get a nice jump on the Blazers in the paint. We're going to need Marc Gasol and Marreese Speights to play their game in the middle on both sides of the ball.
O.J. Mayo lost his sweet touch from the 3-point line last night (0-5). We're going to need him to re-find it, and quick. It's going to be tough, as we saw last night, to make just 2-3 treys and not have to battle, and battle hard, once again. If we want to play from ahead, we're going to need to have Mayo re-find his stroke. Or, maybe, we're going to have to not take 13 3-pointers. Outside shooting is going to be key. Especially as the Blazers offense can really pour it on, as they did last night at the hands of Jamal Crawford.
The thing about the Blazers is that they're long. With Aldridge, Gerald Wallace, Nicoals Batum, Wesley Matthews, and all, it's not so much that they're "big" in bulk, but they're long. We, on the other hand have size and bulk, but we're not quite as long. Rudy Gay can play long and sleek, but other than that we're really... stretching it. OK, maybe Tony Allen plays much longer than he is, but even then it's not a "long" length. If that makes sense. So we need to use our bodies, our size and our width to make room on the basketball court.
I said last night that it would take a let-down performance to stop our streak, and we were almost there. Tonight it will be more of a "we simply ran out of gas" type of performance that could do us in. Back-to-back, after a hard-fought win, against a team that just really plays well at home... this is going to be a tough one. My gut is hurting on this prediction, as is my head, but my heart just can't bail on this team...
Prediction: Grizzlies 99, Blazers 95
MUST-READ: BLAZERS EDGE PREVIEW