Camby grabs 23 rebounds as Blazers cruise past Grizzlies

A lot of expectations are riding the Memphis Grizzlies (10-7) this season after their remarkable Cinderella playoff run that saw them handle the number one San Antonio Spurs and take Oklahoma City into a seven game semifinal. While they are in the gunning for control of the Southwest division, Memphis was hit with the news that their leading veteran big man (and former Blazer) Zach Randolph would be out for at least a few months but handled the absence quite well, riding a seven game winning streak and one of the hottest teams in the NBA. But they faced Portland (11-7) on their home court who are now 8-1 at the Rose Garden, and coming off a 20 point comeback win over Golden State the night before, the Grizzlies held around the first quarter, but would lose 97-84 to a Blazers team that started hot and kept the tempo in their control.

LaMarcus Aldridge who produced just 13 points last night against the Kings, wasn’t happy with his play and arrived at the Rose Garden an hour before to work on his shooting. And it showed from the minute he got the ball. Working over Marreese Speights, Aldridge began the game on fire, hitting his first five field goals on his automatic turnaround jumper, and it also helped getting Speights in early foul trouble. Memphis on the other hand had decent looks but had difficulty hitting them and succumbed to an 10-2 Portland run and watched them go over 73% shooting.

With a 22-13 lead, the Grizzlies got back into the mix thanks to something their number one in the league in committing, turnovers, and lots of them. The Blazers would end the quarter with a whopping 8 turnovers, Michael Conley with his swiping hands, finds Rudy Gay and Marc Gasol alone at the rim and creating chaos to bring themselves to tie at 25 after one-quarter. The Blazers would also stop feeding the ball through Aldridge and would watch their shots clanking off the rim, their percentage dropping to 53% and letting a very dangerous Memphis team hang around too close for comfort.

Both teams would begin to find difficulty finding success around the rim and mostly settled for outside jump shots, and a lot would end up being too short and bouncing off the rim and into the large hands of Marcus Camby, who at the end would have season highs in both rebounds and blocks and was simply terrifying inside the paint. Still tied at 29, the Blazers gave Memphis every right to start pouring in points as the turnovers pile even higher, growing to 12 while the Grizzlies gave it away only two times. Memphis’ possessions seemed to be the exact same, drive inside with some fancy footwork, kick it back out to an open shooter, have him drive it inside but realize that Camby was there and come up just short of the rim. Portland jump back to take a 40-33 lead and expose the weakness in the Grizzlies defense, showing good ball movement and finding the open man for the look.

Memphis would cut the lead to 43-42 nearing the end of the half until Wesley Matthews connects for a three in the corner with 35 seconds left. That three was the first for Portland in the game, as they went frozen from downtown to start the game, missing eight straight before Matthews. Memphis wasn’t great either, Gay attempts to close the half with a ridiculous desperate three at the buzzer but it rattles off the rim, Portland head into the locker room up 47-43.

The Blazers had started a mini run during the winding seconds of the second that spilled into the third and grew strength that would eventually win the game. Raymond Felton hits a three of his own to cap a 9-0 Blazer run and Gerald Wallace steps into numerous Memphis passes to lead the fast break charge to put Portland up 55-45. Jamal Crawford cuts into the Memphis defense to lay it up and in with buttery smooth finger rolls, and the lead extends further, the Grizzlies watch as they go scoreless for five minutes and miss 12 straight attempts until rookie Josh Selby scores their first points of the quarter. For Portland, the third was the breaking point as they built a 20-2 run to put the game away for good. For Memphis, it would’ve meant another comeback as they were down by 20 the night before in Golden State, and at the 2:40 mark they overcame the hole to shock the Warriors. The Grizzlies feed off that and earn six quick points and the lead is now 70-56, but the Blazers are up by 14 heading into the final period.

At times it appeared that Memphis would be able to hold on and cut the lead into single digits, they played more honed in defense on Aldridge to make him give up the ball more but another three by the hands of Crawford push Portland up 80-61. It would be Portland’s way the rest of the night as one by one, the starters would make their exit for the bench to get more resting time before heading down to Golden State for their third game in three nights. The highlight of the fourth came when Chris Johnson had a beastly slam that almost seemed to break the backboard in the last minutes. Portland cruise to a comfortable win while the starters played roughly 30 minutes apiece.

Sure we can mention Aldridge’s game high 23 Pts, 6 Reb, 3 Ast performance on 8-13 makes and 7-8 from the foul line (don’t forget his 14 Pts in the first quarter) but the defense was the key tonight. Marcus Camby had 2 Pts but in 32 minutes he grabbed 22 Reb (18 defensive) and swatted 5 Blks for season highs. Craig Smith’s fan base is festering as he continues to improve his play and earn his minutes, 8 Pts, 3 Reb and one beastly slam dunk while leading the fast break from a zip pass from Crawford. Gerald Wallace was on Rudy Gay all night long and had the quick hands to poke pockets, he had only 7 Pts but 11 Reb and 2 Stl, he had to sit for the last half of the fourth after jamming his sore finger again. Jamal Crawford plays much better in front of the Rose Garden crowd, he came off with 15 Pts, 4 Ast and Nic Batum rebounded his zero points last night with 10 Pts, 2 Reb, 2 Ast.

Portland finally got back into shooting the free throws like they normally do, going to the line for 30-36, while committing a gargantuan 20 turnovers, thankful that the number one team in steals didn’t capitalize too harshly. The Grizzlies’ leading scorer was O.J. Mayo off the bench with 20 Pts followed by leading scorer Rudy Gay with just 11 Pts and had to deal with Wallace.

Nice to know that the starters played reasonable minutes and can get more relaxing time before they finish a gruesome three games, three nights schedule tomorrow. It gets harder since Portland has suffered tough, frustrating losses inside Oracle Arena no matter what the Warriors record is. Hope that changes tomorrow.

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