The Trail Blazers begin their first long road trip of the season with a stint in Memphis to face the young Grizzlies. The last two home games have been refreshing for Blazer fans who were concerned about chemistry, intensity, and overall motivation.
With a tweaked lineup and a commitment to running, the Blazers find themselves playing a back-to-back against two bad teams. A couple wins would go a long way, setting up Portland for a winning record on the trip.
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With Allen Iverson on the shelf for "personal reasons," this matchup gets easier for Portland. Mike Conley will likely get the majority of time at the point and really he hasn't been bad. He's capable of scoring and distributing, but he's not ready for Portland's two-headed point guard monster. Steve Blake and Andre Miller have really been great. As long as the matchup allows it, coach Nate McMillian will more than likely stick with it. Blazers win at the point.
O.J. Mayo has proven, since early on as a rookie, that he could score the basketball. He's been slightly more efficient this year and obviously he's a great young player. Marcus Williams will back-up Mayo and Conley tonight, it'll end up being a three-man carousel. I don't think it matters. Brandon Roy is coming off his lowest point output since early in his rookie year and Rudy Ferndandez is looking to prove something. Simple enough, Blazers get it.
Martell Webster and Travis Outlaw continue to contribute in different ways. Outlaw managed to score 19 points against the Timberwolves on Sunday and I think he can do it again. But there won't be much stopping Rudy Gay. He didn't get his extension and he's hungry to earn his keep as a part of that 2006 draft class. I think Gay will torch the Blazers tonight.
This matchup really boils down to just LaMarcus Aldridge against Zach Randolph. It has not been favorable for Portland in the recent past. In fact, Zach Randolph seems to destroy Portland. In two games last year, he had nearly 26 points and nine rebounds per game. For some reason the Blazers can't guard him and I think he'll do the same in Memphis tonight.
Marc Gasol continues to put up solid offensive numbers in Memphis despite the team's struggles record-wise. He's a great young center but pretty much the only option for Memphis. Greg Oden has been better as of late and coupled with Joel Przybilla they will be a more productive tandem. Blazers win here and win the overall matchup.