MEMPHIS — The Portland Trail Blazers moved to 42-22 on the season, 18-14 away from home and 0-3 on their current road trip after falling 109-99 to the Grizzlies Tuesday night at FedExForum in Memphis.
“Probably what’s frustrating is I thought we competed really hard,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “We were aggressive, got to the free throw line. It seemed like they made big shots and we came up empty. I thought (Memphis) shot the ball really well. I thought we defended but they shot the ball well. We gave up too many fastbreak points in the first half but we controlled that in the second half. They’re a good team, especially here at home.”
Portland has now lost three-straight for just the second time this season. With the loss, the Trail Blazers hold a two-game lead on the Golden State Warriors for the fifth seed in the Western Conference.
The Trail Blazers took a 23-22 lead into the second quarter despite shooting 36 percent from the field while the Grizzlies shot 52 percent. But the poor shooting would eventually catch up with the road team, with the Grizzlies shooting 56 percent for the game to outscore Portland 87-76 in the final three quarters.
“We won the first quarter, they had a little spurt,” said Stotts. “I thought we had a lot of shots that we normally make. We took care of the ball, we got to the free throw line, we were aggressive. Give them credit, they’re a good defensive team but I thought it was one of those nights.”
Portland was led by Damian Lillard, who shot 8 of 22 from the field and 4 of 8 from three to finish with two points while handing out seven assists and grabbing four rebounds while turning the ball over just two times in 39 minutes.
“I just wanted to be aggressive, assert myself in the game and just make sure I could have an impact on the game” said Lillard. “Whether I was digging on the post and helping, being more vocal, being more aggressive on offense. I thought we played a really aggressive game, played really hard. Some things just didn’t go our way.”
LaMarcus Aldridge logged a double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds, but shot just 8 of 23 from the field.
“I’m getting great shots,” said Aldridge. “I had at least six open shots tonight that I (usually) knock down, just not making them right now. As I play more and more I should make them. It was just one of those nights. I made them on and off. I actually got to the basket better than I’ve done all season tonight, so that was kind of funny. But I had looks that I didn’t make tonight.”
Nicolas Batum also stuggled from the field (5 of 13) but shot3 of 5 from three to finish with 15 points and eight rebounds.
“I thought defensively we did a good job,” said Grizzlies center Marc Gasol. “We did a really good job on LaMarcus Aldridge by making every shot tough and being physical with him. By taking him away, we made them an outside team.”
Both Meyers Leonard and Thomas Robinson played extended minutes off the bench with Robin Lopez getting into early foul trouble. The second-year players each shot 4 of 6 from the field to finish with eight points apiece.
The Grizzlies had five players score in double figures led by Gasol, who got into shouting distance of a triple-double with 19 points, nine rebounds and seven assists in 37 minutes.
In injury news, backup guard Mo Williams left the game in the second quarter with pain in his right hip. He did not return and his status for Wednesday night’s game versus the Spurs in San Antonio is unknown.
“We’ve just got to go out there an keep playing,” said Lillard. “We can’t be worried about what’s happened these last three games and we can’t get caught up in, ‘There’s something missing. We need to fix this, we need to fix that.’ We’ve got to go out there and be ourselves and try to make it a game coming down the stretch and try to win one.”
Tipoff for that game is scheduled for 5:30 PM on CSNNW, ESPN and 620 AM.
Neither Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard nor Cavaliers power forward Kevin Love were selected to participate in the 2016 NBA All-Star Game taking place Sunday night in Toronto. But instead of spending their time sulking, the point guard who plays in Portland and the power forward who grew up just down the road in Lake Oswego, aka The Brothers Hooper, hit the studio to collaborate on the new “Droppin’ Dimes” track for State Farm…
It’s not nearly as serious as Lillard’s “Bigger Than Us” video, but every discography needs some good party tracks.
Howdy kind listeners. Before we all take some much needed respite before the start of a brutal March schedule, Joe Freeman, he of The Oregonian/OregonLive.com, and I, Casey Holdahl of ForwardCenter.net/TrailBlazers.com, hit the studios at the Moda Center to record an All-Star break edition of the Rip City Report podcast, which you can listen to below…
On this week’s episode we marvel at the Trail Blazers being 27-27, good for seventh in the Western Conference, and how that’s going to cost Freeman some money/beer at some point, the emergence of Maurice Harkless since joining the starting lineup, Portland rising while other teams in their general range struggle, discuss how we’ll be spending our respective All-Star breaks and answer a host of questions pertaining to the upcoming trade deadline, Gerald Henderson’s tenure in Portland, Damian Lillard passing Brandon Roy and a bunch of other stuff that I’ve already since forgotten. As I noted during the show, my brain is already on vacation.
You can find the Rip City Report on Soundcloud, iTunes and Stitcher. And consider using a small portion of the time you would usually spend watching the Blazers to give us a review on iTunes! You can be as mean as you want!
Though they were never teammates, Damian Lillard and Brandon Roy manage to talk from time to time. Their relationship started not long after Lillard was selected by the Trail Blazers with the sixth overall pick of the 2012 Draft and they’ve stayed in contact ever since over the years. During those somewhat regular chats, the current and former faces of the Trail Blazers’ franchise sometimes discuss the responsibility that comes with that title, especially at a relatively young age, and what could have been if the 6-3 guard out of Weber State and the now-retired 6-6 guard out of Washington ever had the opportunity to play alongside each other in Rip City.
And the next time they talk, they’ll have something new to discuss. With his 31-point performance in Tuesday night’s victory versus the Rockets, Lillard passed Roy for 15th in franchise history in points. Lillard now has 6,119 in less than four seasons in Portland, surpassing the the 6,107 points that Roy scored in five seasons before knee injuries ended his career far too prematurely.
“I mean, that’s an honor,” said Lillard of passing Roy. “Just to be moving up on that list period, but I mean, if Brandon Roy got to play as long as he should have played and people would have liked to have seen him play, I probably would never pass him, so it’s a great accomplishment. It’s an honor you know, but the more important thing is just continuing to be myself and continuing to win games.”
Which Lillard has done an excellent job of his season. He’s the only player to rank in the top-6 in both scoring (24.3 points per game) and assists (7.3 assist per game) this season and has led the Trail Blazers to a 27-27 record this season, vastly outperforming preseason expectations, despite being the only holdover from last season’s starting five.
Though he’s had plenty of help this season from the likes of CJ McCollum, Allen Crabbe, Mason Plumlee and Ed Davis, Lillard’s performance through 54 games is the the primary reason that the Trail Blazers enter the All-Star break in seventh place in the Western Conference. Roy, a three-time All-Star, was a fantastic player in his own right, a player whose peak performances are still the stuff of legend in Portland, but even he never carried the load that Lillard has this season. And of course, Lillard has already helped the Trail Blazer win a playoff series in his first four season in Portland, something Roy never accomplished.
“He’s been pretty good in a short amount of time,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts of Lillard. “I mean, Brandon Roy, I wasn’t here for that, but I know what an imprint he made on the city and the franchise and how important he was to the Blazers. The fact that Damian has passed him this early in his career really says something because I know how good Brandon was. I know his career was cut short but everybody here holds him in high regard.”
Assuming Lillard experiences relatively good health — the seven games he missed this season due to plantar fascitiis are the only games he’s missed in his profession career thus far — there’s no reason to think that he won’t replace Roy as the best guard to play in Portland since Clyde Drexler, if he hasn’t taken that mantel already. But Roy can take some satisfaction in knowing that at least some of the success Lillard has had as a Trail Blazer was accomplished in part due to emulating the example he set on and off the court.
“When (Roy) got to Portland, a lot of the stuff he did, it brought excitement,” said Lillard. “I think the city really embraced him, they liked who he was as a person along with what he did as a player, obviously. I think because I kind of came and did the same thing, did some of the same things he did, I think he respects that… He was well respected, people appreciated the kind of person he was and he got it done on the floor. I think I can say the same for myself.”