Portland at Memphis
Time: 9 PM EST
TV: TSOH, League Pass
Spread: MEM -3
M/L: MEM -150; POR +130
Betting odds c/o Bovada
This one will be a clash. The Portland Trail Blazers enter the game with the second best record in the Western Conference and the Memphis Grizzlies trail them by 1.5 games. Memphis will host the Blazers tonight in what should be a slugfest, with early odds listing Memphis as 3-point favorites.
The Grizzlies have been steady this season. Mike Conley is one of the more under appreciated floor generals in the league, and one of the strongest defenders at his position. Accenting Conley with another premier defender in Tony Allen (and Courtney Lee’s solid play) results in a very unbreakable Grizzlies’ ’D’. Anchoring that attack is the rim protection of one-time DPOY Marc Gasol. Gasol will be a free agent this summer, but there is no reason to doubt that Memphis will throw max-money to retain its best player.
TThe Grizzlies improved after jettisoning Rudy Gay. As did Toronto, after that. That digression aside, the Grizzlies are coming off an easy victory in Orlando and will look to build on the momentum. Gasol is averaging 19.3 points and 8.3 rebonds per game this season while posting a 22.5 PER. Conley is dishing out 6.1 assists per game, but only turning it over 2.3 times per game. A 2.6/1 A/TO ratio is very solid.
While Zach Randolph is continuing his slow decline, he is still a steady source of consistent production offensively. Randolph is still hitting nearly 50 percent from the floor and averages 16.5 points in just 32 minutes a night (PER 21.3). Recent addition Jeff Green looks as though he will fit nicely. He’s seem 58 minutes thus far over his first two games, and is averaging 15.5 points and four rebounds per game.
The depth of Memphis bench is impressive too. Lee, Beno Udrih, Tayshaun Prince, Vince Carter and Jon Leuer are all still very good NBA players. Leuer, a second round draft selection from Wisconsin to the Bucks, has come through as a very good NBA player. He’s not blowing it up statistically but is a talented and fluid big man with a high motor. He could fizzle into nothing, but he has the skills seemingly to become a heavy rotation player on the Grizzlies in time.
The 30-10 Blazers have a lot less depth. But it is Portland who has the most two talented players in this game, with both Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge true franchise talents. The loss of Brandon Roy to injury, of Greg Oden…it has all disappeared now.
Aldridge and Lillard average 45.5 points between them, while Aldridge also snags 10.5 boards per game, Lillard dishes out 6.2 dimes. The Blazers also have the hot shooting of Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum’s defensive playmaking abilities. Matthews takes 7.4 threes a game, hitting 39.7 percent, while Batum averages 1.95 steals/blocks per game.
The numbers are deceiving because most of Batum’s best defensive contributions are deflections, which end up being a lot of team steals. The Blazers use a four headed monster at the center position of Chris Kaman, starter Roin Lopez, Joel Freeland and Meyers Leonard (less used). The approach has worked well: Kaman and Lopez combine to average 19.1 points and 12.5 rebounds between them. Lopez is out right now with a broken hand, which has required more of Freeland and Meyers, but both have stepped up. The Blazers are in a luxurious position to have so much depth at the 5-spot, and that’s one type of depth.
That is the type of depth the Blazers have, positional. It lacks a major scorer for the second unit, and there are names to be had. The Blazers could use a player like Mo Wiliams was in his time with Portland, however, and C.J. McCollum hasn’t yet shown he is that guy. Don’t be surprised if Portland makes a move for someone like Jodie Meeks, or even Nick Young, to infuse some scoring into the second unit.