The title for best team in the West and the NBA can change daily when it’s such a small margin. The Memphis Grizzlies take the crown, which includes having the best record, beating the Portland Trail Blazers 112-99 thanks to a dominant second quarter and great games for both Marc Gasol and Mike Conley.
The Grizzlies improve to 10-0 against Western conference teams and 14-2 overall this season, 0.5 games above the Golden State Warriors, the only other team with just two losses. They took some time getting into the game with a slow first quarter, but in the second quarter thanks to the usual impressive defensive effort that seems to be on a whole other level compared to the rest of the NBA, they got the separation they were looking for and never let go.
The small backcourt they have doesn’t bother them. The Grizzlies are at their best when Tony Allen is on the floor along with Marc Gasol, making it an extremely dangerous defensive unit both on the perimeter and inside the paint. Gasol led the team with 26 points, but he also had nine assists to go with 7 rebounds. Mike Conley scored 21 points and misses a triple double by one assist, as the duo led six Grizzlies players in double figures.
The Blazers, losing at home for only the second time this season in 10 games (the other one was to the Warriors, maybe suggesting they’re still some way off the ‘best’) and ending their nine-game win streak had a very rough shooting night. They can overcome it if it’s just one of their stars and the opposition isn’t playing like a fine tuned-machine, but hitting just 40.2% from the field and allowing the Grizzlies too many easy points (54 in the paint) is a bit too much.
Wesley Matthews was the team’s to scorer with 26 points. The Grizzlies were actually doing their best when Matthews was taking a rest, once again showing the Blazers have done things to improve their bench, but probably not enough, getting a combined six points from their three guards coming off the bench. Damian Lillard scored 20 points but was only 1-of-6 from beyond the arc, his hot streak from the previous game disappearing, Aldridge had another rough one, shooting just 7-of-19 from the field, making only 10-of-37 in the last two games.
According to the Grizzlies, their big strength comes from being familiar with each other, maybe taking a page of the Spurs’ manual. That strength as a group is what’s keeping them above everyone else for the time being.
We really know each other. We’ve pretty much seen any kind of defense you can throw at us, so we pretty much have counters for everything. Once we make a couple of jumpers you have to totally change your scheme and play us a different way. Me and the big fella have known each other for a long time. We know how each other love to play and he’s so unselfish, he’s fun to play with. I know where he wants the ball and he knows where I want the ball so we don’t even have to speak to each other.