Portland welcomes the Memphis Grizzlies to the Rose Garden tonight, looking to avenge a heart-breaking, late-game collapse in last week’s loss in Memphis. The Grizzlies, riding a four-game win streak, bring the NBA’s number-one scoring defense into tonight’s matchup, giving up just 89 points per game on the season.
Memphis is having the best season in franchise history to this point at 42-19, and have won 12 of their last 13 games. They have done this despite missing All-star (and, of course, former Blazer) Zach Randolph for large chunks of the season. Mid-season acquisition Tayshaun Prince has played a big role in keeping the Grizzlies rolling in Randolph’s absence, and another former Blazer, Jerryd Bayless, has finally found a home, being a spark coming off the Memphis bench.
Portland, home from a 1-2 road trip, sits 2 games back in the loss column from the Lakers, who currently hold the final playoff spot. The Blazers will face the toughest strength of schedule in the NBA the rest of the season, although they have found most of their success this season facing tougher opponents. Tonight is game one of a three-game homestand, and Portland needs to make good on the opportunity for a few wins if they’re to have any chance at all of staying in the playoff race.
While Memphis welcomes back Randolph, Portland will also see some reinforcement in the middle, as center Meyers Leonard is expected to return to the lineup after missing Sunday’s game against New Orleans with a rolled ankle. Leonard, who was in the midst of the best stretch of basketball he has played in a Blazers uniform, will look to keep his momentum against the Memphis defense that so blanketed the Blazers last matchup. With Randolph back in the lineup, Memphis will look to dominate the interior even more than they did last Wednesday.