PORTLAND — The Portland Trail Blazers moved to 48-27 on the season and 27-9 at the Moda Center this season with a 105-98 victory versus the Memphis Grizzlies Sunday night.
“Well much like the last few games, I really liked how we’re playing,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “I liked our mindset, I liked our focus from beginning to end. Except in the fourth quarter – outside of a couple loose possessions, I thought we were really locked in on both ends of the court. We matched their physicality.”
With the win, coupled with a Warriors loss, the Trail Blazers now have a two-game lead on Golden State for the fifth seed in the Western Conference. Portland is also two and a half games behind the Houston Rockets for the fourth seed.
“Memphis is most likely a playoff team and they’ve beaten us rather handily, particularly the first game,” said Stotts. “The second game, we’re in the middle of rough road trip and they caught us at a good time and we didn’t play that well. It’s not about a statement game, but I do like the process of how we’ve gotten better over the last three games.”
The loss dropped the Grizzlies to ninth in the West, though just a half game behind both the Mavericks and Suns, a team that lost to the Lakers Sunday night, for the seventh and eighth spots.
After being soundly outplayed in the the first two contests against the Grizzlies this season, the Trail Blazers started out Sunday night’s game with their best quarter of the season versus Memphis. Portland shot 55 percent from the field in the first and out-rebounded the Grizzlies 12-9. Memphis also shot better than 50 percent from the field, but Portland was nonetheless able to take a 25-23 lead into the second quarter.
But Portland had led at the end of the first quarter in the last game against the Grizzlies and still managed to lose by double digits.
So to make sure that piece of history would not repeat itself, the Trail Blazers started the second quarter on a 16-6 run to take an 11-point lead with just under six minutes to play in the half. Mo Williams and Thomas Robinson would each go 3 for 3 from the field in the second to combine for 14 points.
“That’s something that’s been consistent actually over the past few games,” said Robin Lopez of Portland’s bench production. “Even when we didn’t come out with a win necessarily, we’ve been getting nice contributions from our bench. They’ve been getting a lot of experience and they’ve been proving themselves.”
LaMarcus Aldridge was also perfect in the second, hitting both of his shots from the field and all four of his free throws for eight point. Portland as a team would shoot 63 percent from the field and out-scored Memphis, a team featuring talented post players Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, 18-12 in the paint. The Trail Blazers also made 12 of 14 free throws and out-rebounded Memphis 13-7 to take a 57-45 lead into the halftime intermission despite hitting just one three-pointer.
Portland, despite playing their third game in four nights, all in different time zones, came out just as well in the second half as they did in the first. The Grizzlies give up the third-fewest amount of points in the NBA at 94.0 per game, but had no luck slowing down the Trail Blazers Sunday night, with the home team following up a 32-point second quarter with a 29-point third. Portland would once again shoot better than 60 percent as a team from the field, though this time it was Damian Lillard who would do the damage, going 4 of 5 from the field and 2 of 3 from three for 10 points in the quarter.
The Trail Blazers, up 16 points, would let down their guard a bit going into the fourth quarter, particularly near the end of the game. After shooting well above 50 percent for the first three quarters, Portland’s percentage in the fourth dropped down to 32 percent. Luckily for Portland, Memphis wasn’t much better, shooting 42 percent from the field and 25 percent from three. They’d win the quarter 28-19, but needed to do much more to make up for the first three quarters.
Portland was led by Aldridge who finished with 28 points on 50 percent shooting while grabbing four rebounds and playing deft defense on Gasol. The three-time All-Star, who recently missed seven games with a lower back contusion, fell on his backside late in the fourth quarter, though he remained in the game and played 33 minutes on the night.
“I’m a little sore,” said Aldridge. “It definitely woke up my little contusion, but I’m okay.”
Williams finished with 17 points on 7 of 9 shooting and handed out four assists in 29 minutes. The 6-1 guard in his 11th season is shooting 63 percent from the field in his last three games, all wins, while averaging 5.6 assists.
Lopez ended up one point short of a double-double with nine points and 10 rebounds in 35 minutes. He become just the fourth Trail Blazer to record at least 300 offensive rebounds in a season and is only one of two players in the NBA with at least 300 offensive rebounds this year. He is the first player since Dwight Howard in 2010-11 to log at least 300 offensive rebounds and 130 blocks in a season.
After a quick stop at home after a five-game trip, the Trail Blazers now head back on the road for a one-game trip in Los Angeles against the Lakers on Tuesday. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 PM