Game report: Grizzlies 106, Blazers 96
Just when we thought it was safe to stop worrying about the Blazers, they turn in a horrendous performance that raises a whole spectrum of issues. They fell by 10 to the Memphis Grizzlies in a game that wasn't that close for most of the way.
The Blazers simply weren't ready to play. They stepped onto the court full of turkey, and full of themselves after a resounding win over New Jersey. They played as if they were hung over, which they probably were. The visitors, meanwhile, came out showing no signs of turkey coma following what was no doubt a nice hotel Thanksgiving dinner, topped off by whatever their assistant coach, Damon Stoudamire, was able to score them for the after-dinner party.
Memphis shot something like 62% in the first half, to the Blazers' 35% or so. The Griz outhustled the Blazers and dominated the rebounding. At one point they scored 21 unanswered points. They were ahead 42-17 in the second quarter. They played tough defense, to which the Blazers responded by morphing back into a Euro jump-shooting team most of whose shots weren't falling. Memphis roughed up any Portland players who went inside, and the Blazers kept looking for whistles that the referees weren't blowing. What foul shots they got, they missed quite a few of, particularly in the first half.
Steve Blake was a disaster. Joel Przybilla looked as though he's sick or injured. Rudy Fernandez couldn't hit the broad side of a barn. Andre Miller went down with a hip pointer early in the game and moved around pretty gingerly when he returned to the court. Overall, the Blazers' defense was porous.
Memphis looked quite like a playoff team. O.J. Mayo, Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol, and this giant guy Hasheem Thabeet from Connecticut are going to pose matchup problems for a lot of opponents, even in the Western Conference. They are big and strong. The Grizzlies also added by subtraction in a major way by parting ways with Allen Iverson. (At halftime, we chatted briefly with Bill Schonely, who remarked that A.I.'s departure was "like a dark cloud lifting" for Memphis.) The Blazers had better hope that they don't encounter these guys in the first round of post-season play.
We found a comfortable seat in one of the cafes on the concourse and had a leisurely couple of beers with some friends while the third quarter droned on. By the time we got back to our seat in the arena, the Blazers were attempting to mount a comeback, but they had dug themselves too deep a hole. It never got closer than 8 points.
After the debacle, the Blazers jumped on a plane to Salt Lake City, where they get to play at altitude this evening against a Jazz team that will be rested after beating the Bulls on Thanksgiving. Let's hope the Blazers sleep off whatever was in their systems last night.
So lackluster was the performance by the players that our mind drifted to other matters when we should have been looking for photo opportunities. We've decided that the redhead is the cutest dancer, and here's our obligatory bad game photo. It's Andre Miller going up for a nice basket, and I believe this was the play on which he got hurt:
Somebody else's flash went off at the same instant, and we've tried to doctor the photo up as best we could. Miller's way under the hoop and looking straight up in the air. He wound up getting his feet knocked out from under him and landing on his right bottom.
This was a game in which the Blazers' high hopes got taken down by a substantial margin. Except for Martell Webster, who hit a bunch of 3 pointers, the Portland players simply didn't show up. And the scary part is, even if they had, they would have had a fair amount of trouble with a team as fast and as physical as Memphis was last night.