[March 31, 2014]PORTLAND, Ore. — With the playoffs
approaching, it is a good time for teams to begin to rounding into peak
The Portland Trail Blazers may be getting there, the latest
evidence a 105-98 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday night
at the Moda Center.
It was the third victory in a row for the Trail Blazers, who
solidified their hold on fifth place in the NBA's Western
Conference. The Blazers (48-27) are two games ahead of the
sixth-place Golden State Warriors, who lost to the New York Knicks
on Sunday night.
"I like where we're headed," said Portland guard Wesley Matthews,
who contributed 15 points and five assists. "We're not content by
any means, but our focus is where it needs to be. We're finally
playing with that urgency we need to have."
Forward LaMarcus Aldridge scored 28 points to lead five scorers in
double figures for the Blazers. Aldridge played in his third
consecutive game after missing the previous seven with a sore back.
"(Aldridge) coming back has brought us back to what we do and how we
do it," said Blazers guard Mo Williams, who scored 17 points on
"He's their horse," said forward Zach Randolph, who led Memphis with
21 points. "He's what makes them go. Any time you have LaMarcus,
your best player, out there, it makes a difference."
Center Marc Gasol added 20 points for the Grizzlies, who fell to 1-2
on a five-game road trip that continues Monday in Denver against the
Nuggets. Memphis (43-30) is a half-game out of a playoff spot,
trailing the Phoenix Suns and Dallas Mavericks, who are tied for
seventh place in the West.
Portland shot 52 percent from the field and 88 percent from the foul
line in the victory.
"(The Blazers) have a ton of playmakers, and they made us chase them
all around the floor," Memphis coach David Joerger said. "We were
just kind of always behind tonight, and our hats are off to them."
Aldridge scored 14 first-half points, and Williams and forward
Thomas Robinson came off the bench to combine for 9-for-9 shooting
to stake Portland to a 57-45 lead at the break. Williams (5-for-5)
had 12 points and Robinson (4-for-4) eight before halftime. Portland
shot 57.9 percent and outrebounded the Grizzlies 25-16 through the
Guard Damian Lillard's 3-pointer hiked Portland's edge to 68-51 four
minutes into the third quarter. The Blazers jacked it to 78-60
before the Grizzlies rallied to close to within 80-68. Portland took
an 86-70 edge into the fourth quarter.
When the Blazers scored the first five points of the final period,
it seemed over. The Grizzlies didn't die, though, drawing to within
101-91 with 3:03 to play. Aldridge scored on a post-up to make it
103-91, but Randolph responded with a hook and forward James Johnson
sank a 3-pointer that cut the margin to 103-96 with 1:15 left.
Gasol's basket with six seconds to play cut Memphis' deficit to
five, but Lillard sank two free throws to seal the outcome.
"They just came out harder than us," Randolph said. "They wanted it
more from the start."
Portland coach Terry Stotts said, "I like how we're playing. I liked
our mindset. I liked our focus from beginning to end. Outside of a
couple of loose possessions, we were locked in at both ends of the
NOTES: Portland G Wesley Matthews went 5-for-5 at the free-throw
line, running his streak of consecutive makes to 36. ... Blazers F
LaMarcus Aldridge hit 10 of 20 attempts from the field, shooting 50
percent or better in a complete game for the first time since Feb.
12. ... Portland G Damian Lillard scored all 13 of his points in the
second half. ... The loss prevented Memphis from sweeping the season
series with Portland after the Grizzlies claimed double-digit
victories in the teams' first two meetings. ... The Blazers' 105
points were the most scored against the Grizzlies in March. ...
Portland coach Terry Stotts said C Marc Gasol was the key to
Memphis' resurgence after the Grizzlies started the season 15-19.
"When he wasn't healthy, they weren't as good defensively," Stotts
said. "He talks, he's smart, he makes everybody better at the
defensive end. He's important at the other end, too. He makes
perimeter shots, but his passing and directing of the offense are
the biggest difference he makes. He quarterbacks that offense." ...
The Blazers play the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on