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Back to the Grind: Grizzlies at Trail Blazers Preview

They're back, and hopefully ready to play a LOT of basketball. The Memphis Grizzlies are in Portland for game one of five this week against the Trail Blazers. This contest is very important for both teams with regard to playoff positioning. Memphis must attack early & often if they hope to start the post All-Star Break sprint on the right foot.

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Defending the likes of Matthews will be key for Memphis in Portland tonight.
Defending the likes of Matthews will be key for Memphis in Portland tonight.
Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

Memphis Grizzlies at Portland Trail Blazers

Injury Report:

Memphis- Vince Carter (Out, Foot), Marc Gasol (Questionable, Illness)

Portland- Joel Freeland (Out, Shoulder)

For the Portland perspective, be sure to check out Blazer's Edge.

Hope you have your best running shoes on.

The sprint to the finish line that is the post All-Star Break begins tonight for the Memphis Grizzlies, and it will indeed be a sprint. 7 weeks filled with 29 basketball games that will play a huge role in where the Bears of Beale Street will be heading this postseason. It starts especially the next two weeks, in which the Grizzlies play nine games with eight of them being parts of a back-to-back. Hopefully the Grizzlies are well rested, for their depth is about to be tested.

Of course, the team they face tonight is a test in and of itself, a team that is very similar to these Grizzlies statistically as you can see in the table above. The Portland Trail Blazers are looking to move on from a loss to the Utah Jazz Friday night and hope to do so thanks in part to the arrival of Alonzo Gee and Arron Afflalo, the latter being the key piece of a Trade Deadline deal designed to make Portland that much more dangerous scoring the basketball with their second unit. Memphis is 2-0 against Portland so far this season, the last win coming in Memphis, 102-98. A win tonight would give the Grizzlies the season series and the all-important tie-breaker with regard to playoff seeding.

A tough place to play, a very good & motivated opponent & the first game in 11 days/first game of five in seven days. Challenging, to say the least. How can Memphis rise to the occasion? Three keys.

Threes are Two of the Keys

DEFENDING-

Portland shoots the second most three-pointers in the entire Association at about 28 a game, and they shoot the 8th best percentage on those shots at 35.9%. They are dependent on these buckets, to say the least. Memphis must go over screens and prevent the Trail Blazers from getting rhythm jumpers from range. Especially considering that this will be the first game for Afflalo in Portland, there will be energy & a desire from Afflalo to show case his skill set. Bench defenders such as Tony Allen must be aware of him at all times.

SHOOTING-

For the Grizzlies, showing a pulse from beyond-the-arc would be a welcome sight. The past 16 games Memphis is shooting a paltry 29.4% from three, and while the Grizzlies went 13-3 over that stretch of games the fact remains that percentage is far from ideal. It is about spacing & creating opportunity for the paint-dependent Grizzlies to work. The burden lies on Mike Conley & Courtney Lee in particular to force teams to honor their scoring potential from range, and it would be nice if Jeff Green & Beno Udrih followed through on that need as well.

Attack Early and Often

Of course, that space does you no good if you're not in a position to eventually close it at the rim. The Memphis Grizzlies are bullies on the block & in the lane, and this must be especially the case on this night if Memphis wants to beat Portland in their house. Early doses of Marc Gasol & Zach Randolph inside will potentially put Robin Lopez & LaMarcus Aldridge in foul trouble & test the Chris Kamans and Meyers Leonards of the world to step up their roles a bit. In addition, Mike Conley getting to the free throw line off of penetration in the paint will help get him in the flow of the game & back to playing at the level he was at earlier in the season. Hopefully the week or so off did his body good.

The Prediction

This is going to be a challenging stretch for the Grizzlies, and this is likely the hardest game of the week for Memphis. Portland will be amped up at home & ready to unleash their new toy Afflalo. Expect a playoff atmosphere and multiple runs for both teams that will be capped off in the fourth quarter with the Memphis Grizzlies, led by the energy of Tony Allen & the desire of Mike Conley to try to show up All-Star Damian Lillard. Grizzlies pick up a big win that will look even bigger in April.

Memphis 97, Portland 93


2014/15 NBA Season
at
Portland Trail Blazers (2005 - Pres)
2014/15:
39-14 (16-9 road)
2014/15:
36-18 (23-5 home)
February 22nd, 2015
Moda Center, Portland, Oregon
8:00 PM CDT
Fox SportSouth / 92.9 FM ESPN
Possible Starters
Mike Conley PG Damian Lillard
Courtney Lee SG Wesley Matthews
Jeff Green SF Nicolas Batum
Zach Randolph PF LaMarcus Aldridge
Marc Gasol C Robin Lopez
2014/15 Advanced Stats
94.2 (T-25th) Pace 96.5 (T-12th)
104.6 (10th) OEff 104.5 (11th)
100.2 (T-4th) DEff 99.7 (3rd)
50.2 (T-13th) RebR 50.2 (T-13th)

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