The Memphis Grizzlies haven’t played a game since before the All-Star break, so it’s probably a good thing that their first time out on the court is against a team they’ve handled quite well this season, the Portland Trail Blazers.
The Grizzlies have beaten the Blazers twice this season: A 102-98 home win last month with 20 points from Zach Randolph and a strong performance off the bench for Jeff Green, and earlier this season in Portland (November), winning 112-99 with big scoring nights from Pau Gasol (26 points) and Mike Conley (21 points). The Blazers, four games behind the Grizzlies and trying to hold on to fourth in the West, can’t afford another home loss against a team they find difficult to defend against.
The Blazers are interesting to watch in this matchup because of the changes they’ve made just before the trade deadline. Arron Afflalo joined them from the Denver Nuggets to add some perimeter scoring off the bench (most likely) and Alonzo Gee tagged along, although his role is going to be significantly smaller compared to Afflalo. The Blazers didn’t have the two of them at hand when they lost 92-76 to the Utah Jazz in their only game since the All-Star break.
General manager Neil Olshey: I know he can help us. We had a very specific set of criteria for anybody that we were going to acquire and Arron met every single criteria that we had established. I think our veteran players are happy to add him, it gives us a better chance to win at a high level. That’s the goal this year: we’re in a win-now mode.
Marc Gasol is on a day-t0-day, but so is Afflalo and overall the Blazers are probably going to need more time to piece out a rotation that works for them now that these changes have come along. Just like last season, it feels as if the Blazers are getting a little bit tired entering the final stretch because of how heavily they rely on their bench players. Sure, the depth is a bit better this season, as it is for the Grizzlies, who haven’t won a road game since February 4.