The Memphis Grizzlies (39-14) have a nice secure spot in the number 2 position in the Western Conference, but can't stop now as they travel to the Moda Center to face a Portland Trail Blazers, who are also tright in the thick of things. Can Portland be effective against a tough Memphis defense will be the theme for this matchup.
Tip-off is set for 9:00 pm ET tonight at the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon. According to the NBA betting odds. the Blazers are a 3.5 point betting favorite and the total for the game is listed at 194.
A Major Concern!
Believe it or not, Memphis has something to be concerned about, despite allowing a league's best 95.7 points per game. The Oklahoma City Thunder have grown stronger after the recent trade deadline and OKC will be looking to pass the Spurs and get out of the 8th spot in the Western Conference in order to avoid Golden State. This leaves a 2-7 matchup in the playoffs with the Grizzlies and the Thunder. In reality, the Thunder are much better than a number 8 or 7 team and the team that would have to face them would get a raw deal.This could be the Grizzlies.
In their last game, the Grizzlies faced the Thunder and were beaten quite easily, 105-89. While the thought of playing the Thunder again isn't first and foremost on the Grizzlies' mind, it is a concern and they need to continue to win. They've won 8 out of their last 10 games, but are a slight underdog tonight as this is a road game and Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge both "got game".
Stock Has Fallen?
After not initially being voted for the All Star Game, Damian Lillard's ego took a bit of a hit. This was a guy that came out of nowhere a few years back to be the surprise of the NBA Draft. Lillard, who has become one of the better point guards in the game, decided not to participate in the Skills Challenge during All Star Weekend as he had to be insulted by not making the All- Star team. Eventually, he got in as other players weren't able to play, but that stay's with a player and I expect Lillard to make a statement in the last 28 games of the regular season.
Since the All-Star Game, Lillard had a 19 point effort to lead the Blazers in a 92-76 loss to Utah. Expect Lillard to turn it up a notch and he'll have to as Memphis' defense is second to none. A matchup with Mike Conley Jr. will be exciting for the fans to watch tonight, but will be a major challenge for Lillard. He has the edge offensively, but Conley Jr. is a point guard that's fairly consistent and doesn't seem to be phased by the opposition.
We speak of the All-Star Game and I watched LaMarcus Aldridge closely. His numbers say that he's one of the best power forwards in the game at 23.4 points and 10.3 rebounds, but after seeing him on All-Star Sunday, I don't think that he's as good as his numbers indicate. He's a very good "2nd tier" star. Aldridge will have a chance to prove me wrong as he faces one of the best big men tandem in Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol.
Zach Randolph has always come off to me as a player that has produced wherever he's played. He's been on several teams and despite consistently providing double- doubles, teams seem to trade him away. This hasn't been the case in Memphis as he appears to be the perfect fit there. It shows in his numbers and more importantly, it shows in the standings. Zebo is a grinder. He's a big man with a nice shooting touch that's willing to "get his hands dirty" and isn't much of a glory seeker. In his last 10 games, Randolph is averaging 17.1 points and 11.9 rebounds per game. Expect Randolph to be a nuisance against his former team.
The Kersey Factor
As crazy as it seems, I think that the death of Jerome Kersey, who was a key player during Portland's playoff runs in the 90's, could have a sentimental effect on this game. This could play a small role in this game and it might be enough to sway me in the direction of the home team. Take the Blazers and lay the points with your NBA picks.
NBA Pick- Portland -3.5 at 5Dimes