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Grizzlies-Blazers Preview: Keep the water shut off

The Grizzlies meet the Blazers for round 2 of a 3 round matchup. After winning the first game handily in Portland, can the Grizzlies' defense hold the jumpshooting Blazers in check again at home?

Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Spo

2013/2014 NBA Season
36-26 (19-14 home)
Won 2
42-21 (18-13 road)
Lost 2
February 21st, 2014
FedEx Forum, Memphis, TN
7:00 PM CST
Fox SportsSouth/ 92.9 FM ESPN
Possible Starters
Mike Conley PG Damian Lillard
Courtney Lee SG Wesley Matthews
Tayshaun Prince SF Nicolas Batum
Zach Randolph PF LaMarcus Aldridge
Marc Gasol C Robin Lopez
2013/14 Advanced Stats
92.3 (30th) Pace 98.0 (T-9th)
102.9 (19th) OEff 108.5 (4th)
102.3 (10th) DEff 104.5 (T-17th)
Injury Report

Blazers - n/a

Grizzlies- Quincy Pondexter (Out, Foot)

Opponent's Blog: Blazer's Edge

Keys to the game

Duplicate Round 1 In the first game, the Grizzlies shut down the Blazers' 3 point attack for most of the night, holding them to 4-24 (16.7%) for the game. Statistically, the Blazers have proven to come and go as their outside weapons go - those primarily being Matthews, Batum, and Mo Williams. I don't expect 16% again, but if the Grizzlies can keep the Blazers from filling it up from deep, it is a big step in the right direction.

Stars vs. Stars LaMarcus Aldridge and Zach Randolph each are double-double machines who can score and rebound at high levels. In their first matchup, Z-Bo got his with 23 and 10, but Aldridge racked up 27 and 16 of his own to win that battle in a losing cause. Look for LMA and Z-Bo to lock horns tonight and end up with around a 20-10 or better apiece.

Damian Lillard and Mike Conley will face off again after Conley (19 points, 3 rebounds, 7 assists) outdueled Lillard (16 points, 1 rebound, 3 assists) in that first meeting. Conley has been up and down since his return from injury, and a similar result tonight would be big for the Grizzlies.

Control Pace Portland is a team that wants to get up and down the court. Lopez and Aldridge are bigs with good quickness and end-to-end speed, and all 3 perimeter players excel in transition also. The Grizzlies, especially the Grizzlies bigs, are simply not willing to trade buckets in that manner. Look for the Grizzlies to continually try to keep the pace under control by controlling the boards, turnovers and using clock on offense.

Slipping through their fingers

When the Grizzlies met the Blazers in late January, they were 3rd in the league and playing well. As often happens with teams whose fortunes go as their jumpshooters go, they have fallen off some as the season has progressed, and now likely will not have home court advantage in the playoffs. They stumble into this game having lost 3 of their last 4. The Grizzlies must pounce while the Blazers are down.

Fresh Legs, pts. 1 & 2

A couple of Tweets show how the Grizzlies' veterans are helping to carry them since the break:

Joe's neat-o fact-o-the-day

The Grizzlies currently have 3 players in the top 100 in the league in true shooting percentage: Mike Miller (61.6%, 15th), Courtney Lee (58.5%, 47th) and Jon Leuer (57.9%, 61st).

This statistic does weigh 3 pointers more heavily because they're worth more points, but the statistic tells you as a whole how efficient that player is per shot attempt. Of the big 3, Mike Conley is most efficient (53.8%, 156th), followed by Gasol (52.2%, 203rd) and Randolph (50.2%, 250th). It is a good thing the front office beefed up the bench, because our stars simply have not been efficient scorers this year.

To compare that to last year, Z-Bo is about the same (50.6%, 243rd last year) but Conley (54.9%, 115th LY) and especially Gasol (55.9%, 91st LY) have been much less efficient this year. That said, Conley's efficiency has dropped significantly since returning from his last injury while Gasol's has been arcing upward since around the All-Star break. We can hope for similar trend from Conley as he continues to work his way back into that All-Star-level form we saw through much of the first half of the season.

The Bottom Line

The Grizzlies are temporarily in 8th place, but are going to have to keep winning to stay there. A win tonight against the 5th-place Blazers would be another step down that playoff path. If the Griz can muster a big-time defensive night - especially guarding the 3 point line - it should help the Grizzlies pick up this much-needed win.