Back To City Of Roses
The Blazers (40-34 ATS, 41-32-1 O/U at sportsbooks) just finished a five-game trip through the Eastern Conference that looked at first to be a disaster. They lost the first three and didn't top 94 points in any of them, capped by a shouldn't-happen 10-point defeat in Orlando on Tuesday night. However, in what isn't even remotely a coincidence, the Blazers won Thursday night in Atlanta -- we recommended that on our NBA free picks -- and Friday night in Chicago with LaMarcus Aldridge back in the lineup after missing seven straight games.
Aldridge had 25 points and 16 rebounds against Atlanta and only five points (2-for-10 from field) against the Bulls but also 13 boards and four steals. Portland allowed a season-low 74 points against Chicago. Too bad the Blazers aren't in the East's Central Division as they are 9-1 against it this season.
Portland entered play Saturday a game ahead of Golden State for the No. 5 seed in the West and 2.5 ahead of Phoenix for the No. 7 spot. Certainly no team wants to face the Spurs or Thunder in the first round so getting at least No. 6 is advisable, although that could mean the Clippers. No. 5 might be the best if it's against No. 4 Houston, especially with the Rockets having likely lost Patrick Beverley for the season. The Blazers' remaining schedule is friendly. Starting with this one, six of their final eight are at home and the two road games are at the Lakers at Jazz, arguably the West's worst teams.
Portland is 4-2 at home this month and the only victory over a team with a winning record was against Washington. The losses were a head-scratcher against the Lakers and a one-point defeat to Golden State.
Big One For Grizzlies
Memphis (33-37-2 ATS, 34-38 O/U at sportsbooks) entered Saturday a half-game ahead of Dallas for the West's final playoff spot. The Grizzlies lost 100-93 in Golden State on Friday night. They were up seven with four minutes left. Whenever Memphis allows 100 points it's likely to lose. Still, the Grizzlies lost for just the fourth time in 18 games when shooting 50 percent or better.
This team should make the playoffs and will be a matchup nightmare for whomever the Grizzlies play because they are basically infuriatingly slow and physical, much like the Bulls in the East. Memphis is 23-10 since Marc Gasol, the reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year, returned from a long injury absence. Golden State was the first team to reach triple digits on the Grizzlies in 12 games (loss in Brooklyn).
This is the second of a four-game trip for Memphis and it has have to play Monday night in Denver. The Grizzlies have a pretty tough schedule remaining, including games at San Antonio and vs. Miami. The last two of the regular season could be crucial: April 14 at Phoenix and April 16 vs. Dallas.
The Grizzlies go for the three-game sweep. On Jan. 28 in Portland, Memphis won 98-81 as a 5-point dog. Former Blazer Zach Randolph had 23 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Grizzlies. That stellar Memphis defense held Portland to a season-low in points at the time, 34.5 percent shooting overall and 4-for-24 from long range. Aldridge had 27 points and 16 rebounds. On March 11 in Memphis, the Grizzlies won 109-99 as a 3-point favorites for sports bettors. Randolph had 18 points and 12 rebounds in that one. That was Memphis' fifth straight win in the series overall. They are usually close. All four games last year were decided by single digits.
NBA free picks: Portland -3 and the under on free NBA picks. The Blazers look to have their swagger back with Aldridge back. Memphis is 1-5 ATS in its past six road games. The under is 7-2 in the past nine meetings.