Originally written on NorthWest Sports Beat  |  Last updated 1/4/13
Time to forget Toronto The Portland Trail Blazers are coming off one of the most disappointing losses of the season, and things aren’t getting any easier as they travel to Memphis to take on the surging Memphis Grizzlies. Matchup: Portland (16-15) @ Memphis Grizzlies (20-9) Venue: FedExForum Time: 5:00 PM PT Date: Friday, Jan. 4, 2012 Marc Gasol and Tony Allen are part of the reason Memphis excels on defense. (Photo: Danny Johnston/AP) Game Notes/How They Match Up It’s no secret that the Trail Blazers have won games this season with their offense. When they fail to score, their defense hasn’t been good enough to stop the charge on the other end of the floor. With a 16-15 record, they’ve clearly given up their fair share up games this season; but it’s been a rare occasion when they’ve played well offensively and still lost. Memphis, on the other hand, is the exact opposite. The Grizzlies are a tough, physical team that wins games on the defensive side of the court. They are the best team in the league at preventing their opponents from scoring, and they know how to win games that stay in the low-90′s or below. What to Watch: Portland When the Blazers shoot better than 45 percent from the field, they are virtually unbeatable. Unfortunately, they’re going up a defense that is first in the league in points allowed and gives up just 43 percent shooting on a nightly basis. The Blazers must have backup plans if the stars aren’t able to put the ball in the basket. Memphis has physical defenders who could trouble both Nicolas Batum and Damian Lillard, and if those two go cold, they’re going to need someone to step up behind LaMarcus Aldridge. Look for that 45-percent mark to be a key factor in this game, and if Portland doesn’t reach it, they likely don’t escape with a win. What to Watch: Memphis One of the things that Memphis has to their advantage against most teams is size. As a result, they’re one of the more dangerous teams in the NBA when it comes to scoring in the paint. Through two months of play, they’re the seventh-best team in the league when it comes to scoring at the rim. Marc Gasol is a physical force on the block, Zach Randolph is crafty despite his lack of athleticism and forward Rudy Gay can finish with authority. For most teams, this is a problem they have to simply prepare for. For Portland, it’s something that could ultimately push the game out of their hands if Memphis dominates as the stats indicate they should. LaMarcus Aldridge will be matchup up against Zach Randolph. (Photo: The Oregonian) The Blazers have been the worst team in the league this season at defending the paint, and without Meyers Leonard available for the game, they’ll need to cross their fingers that the Grizzlies abort the plan that has gotten them where they are today. Key Matchup As it is every time these two teams face off, the key battle can be found when looking at the power forward position. Zach Randolph has become a Blazer-killer since leaving Rip City, and LaMarcus Aldridge will be given the unfortunate task of trying to contain a sure-fire double-double pl ayer at his own position. Luckily for Aldridge, Randolph has never been known as a defender. The Blazers’ big man will be able to take Randolph both inside and outside all game long. If his shot is falling, the offensive part of this battle will belong to him. The question, of course, is: can Aldridge keep up on the boards? We’ll find out Friday. Injury Report Portland: OUT—Meyers Leonard, DOUBTFUL—Sasha Pavlovic Memphis: DAY-TO-DAY—Jerryd Bayless, DOUBTFUL—Wayne Ellington Prediction The Blazers looked great against the New York Knicks and awful against the Toronto Raptors. How they’ll look against Memphis is anybody’s guess. Blazers 89 – Memphis 103 CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT THE BLAZERS BLOG IN OUR CLUBHOUSE TODAY AT NWSB!
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