The Memphis Grizzlies came into Portland having won seven straight games, including a nervy comeback over Golden State less than 24 hours prior. Comebacks are exhausting, though, and all streaks must end. The tired Memphis friends hung around with the Portland Trail Blazers for a couple of quarters, but tapped out in the second half to take a 97-84 loss.
So far this lockout-smushed season, teams have been especially prone to the odd night of truly rotten shooting. It's a contagion and, while both teams shot poorly, it was really the Grizzlies that caught the bug Tuesday night. The team as a whole shot at a 38 percent clip, and nobody in the first unit cracked 40 percent from the field. Rudy Gay, cold from everywhere but the inner shallows, was the lone starter to crack double-digit points with 11.
When Memphis did score, it did so in trademark fashion. Even at low battery, the Grizzlies were typically disruptive on defense, forcing 20 Portland turnovers, including 10 steals (five of which came from Mike Conley). Particularly in the second quarter, Memphis picked Portland pockets, poached precarious passes, and paraded promptly into the paint for plentiful points, even briefly taking the lead.
But the two teams diverged quickly out of halftime. Blazer's Edge explains:
Memphis got a reminder that Portland was serious about a victory as the third started, as Camby's rebounds and blocks provided a spark. Meanwhile, Portland ramped up the defense and the Grizzlies could not find the net. Just to complete the cycle, Blazer turnovers stopped, and jumpers rained into the hoop from all over the court.
Those rebounds were some of 22 (!) that Camby pulled down the evening. He and LaMarcus Aldridge formed a sporting rebounding 'n' scoring big man/buddy cop duo (Aldridge is the maverick hotshot with a secret, Camby is the obsessive-compulsive forensics expert on his last case. They are: MARCUS AND THE MARCUS) pretty much all game long until they were put on ice for garbage time. And we got garbage time thanks to a 22-2 run that secured Portland a double-digit lead that they wouldn't lose the rest of the way.
Also key for the Blazers: Memphis's slappy, foul-prone defense. Portland was granted 36 free throws and converted 30 of them, a marked advantage over the Grizzlies' 13-17 shooting from the stripe. On a night of exhaustion for two teams both intent on conserving energy (Portland was on the second of a back-to-back-to-back, the Grizzlies were on their fourth game in five nights), free points proved a major deciding factor.
The Grizzlies fell to 10-7 on the year while Portland moved to 11-7. They're third and fourth in their divisions, respectively. Damn, those are some tough divisions.