Monday, December 3, 2007

Pregame: Memphis vs Portland - 12.3.07

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Special Feature
For today's Memphis/Portland pregame commentary, we are pleased to again provide Griz fans some insight into the opposing team by including a question/answer section with an "enemy" blogger. Today, Dave from the great blog Blazer's Edge, agreed to answer 3 questions from Zack, including a discussion on the Blazer's recent troubles, why Sergio isn't playing more (asked with all of our Spanish friends in mind), and the 2nd year growth of Roy and Aldridge. Check out the interview below Chip's Matchups.

opened December with a convincing victory over a tired Minnesota team. At first glance it would seem that December is an easy month for the Grizzlies with 9 home games out of 15 but a little further investigation provides a different picture. Only five of the teams Memphis plays this month have losing records (TWolves, Blazers, Clippers, Hawks and 76ers). Throw in two games against San Antonio, New Orleans and Houston and this becomes a very important month for the Grizzlies. The return of Darko couldn't have come at a better time. With Darko back Iavaroni can finally start using the 8 man rotation he has been saying he wanted all season. Baring any more injuries it would appear that Iavaroni has his rotation set and that should mean fewer turnovers and more efficient offensive and defensive play.

Portland has struggled since a four game home win streak back in early November which included a come from behind victory over the Grizzlies. Portland has yet to win on the road as well and with this game being the last of a three game road trip through the Southwest Division (the other games were losses at Dallas and San Antonio) this is not a game that the Blazers want to lose. After this game Portland plays 4 of the next 5 at home and the team wants to come home on a positive note. Coach Nate McMillian is a smart coach who usually gets his team to overachieve so this has been a difficult beginning of the season for McMillian. The one bright spot has been that Portland knows next season brings the return of Greg Oden so the future looks bright for this young team.


Point Guards: Damon Stoudamire vs Steve Blake
Not many people expected either of these players to be solidifying their starting role at this point of the season. Damon was supposed to be getting eased out by Michael Conley and Kyle Lowry while Steve Blake was supposed to be getting pushed out of his back up role behind Jarrett Jack by Sergio Rodriquez. So much for what the experts anticipated. Damon Stoudamire is actually increasing his minutes since Conley's injury and his shooting is improving as well. Damon is hitting only 40% on the season but an incredible 45% from the arc. Blake's shooting worse than Damon including a shocking 43% from the FT line but his ability to lead the team and keep things under control is desired more right now from McMillian.
Advantage: Memphis

Shooting Guards: Mike Miller vs Brandon Roy

If there is a premier match up in this game this is it. Two former Rookie of the Year's who lead thier teams in multiple catagories. Roy is 2nd in scoring, second in assists and leads the Blazers in steals. Miller is 3rd in scoring and leads the team in rebounds while tying for the lead in assists. Both players see themselves as clutch scorers but both have had trouble actually performing in the clutch. Roy is shooting only 43% from the field and Miller's troubles are well documented in crunch time around Memphis. Still Miller's rebounding gives him a distinct edge in this match up.
Advantage: Memphis

Small Forwards: Rudy Gay vs Martell Webster

Rudy Gay plays far better against jump shooters than slashers and Webster is nothing but a jump shooter. Rudy also has scored far better with the Twin Towers playing together and so he should be looking to be more aggressive in this game. Rudy has not been hitting the boards hard enough for Iavaroni's tastes and this is an area that Webster does have an advantage over Rudy. If Rudy hits the offensive glass a stays away from silly fouls he should have an edge in this match up.
Advantage: Memphis

Power Forwards: Pau Gasol vs LaMarcus Aldridge

Gasol has the better resume in this battle but Aldridge has had the better season so far. Aldridge is very similiar to Gasol in that he can hit shots out to 15' and has smooth moves around the basket. He has been a more effective rebounder and shot blocker this season and seems ready to take the next step forward in his second year. Gasol is struggling playing in the less structured offense of Iavaroni. While still putting up respectable numbers he hasn't had the big games offensively or defensively that he usually produces. The coaching staff isn't exactly unhappy with his production so far but they are hoping for him to make a bigger impact going forward. Having Darko back should help Gasol adjust.
Advantage: Portland

Centers: Darko Milicic vs Joel Przybilla

Darko returned to the lineup against Minnesota and immediately made his presence felt with 5 blocked shots. Unfortuantly it was obvious that his left thumb is still bothering him and his offensive game was very rusty. Like Darko Pryzbilla has two main jobs on the Blazers and neither involves putting the ball in the basket. He is to protect Portland's basket and clean the rebounds up. Pryzbilla does both quite well. Starting only 6 games so far there hasn't been a noticeable increase in production from Joel but McMillian seems content with his performance so far. Darko is more talented but until the rust goes away and he is capable of using his left hand better he will struggle.
Advantage: Portland

Benches: Memphis vs Portland

Memphis has finally found the rotation Iavaroni has desired the team play this year. The eight man rotation seems to be Kyle Lowry, Juan Carlos Navarro and Stromile Swift. Kyle and Stro have shown an incredible ability to come off the bench and make major impacts but Navarro's best performances has come as a starter. He is a streak shooter who needs to learn how to be ready coming into games as his chances of starting with Rudy and Miller ahead of him are not too good right now. Portland also likes to bring impact players off the bench in the form of Jarret Jack, Travis Outlaw and Channing Frye. The three players are the most effective of a very talented and very young bench that includes Sergio Rodriguez, Taureen Green and Josh McRoberts.
Advantage: Memphis

3 Questions With Dave from Blazer's Edge

Dave was kind and agreed to answer 3 questions from Zack. After you read his answers here, go check out his game preview and also be aware that he has an open game thread as well, which will generate a lot of comments from Blazer's fans during games. Maybe go check out what Blazer fans are saying when you're not posting at the game thread.

SoB: Last time our respective teams met, the Blazers were in the midst of an impressive 4 game winning streak and things seemed to be going really good. However, that winning streak was followed up by losing 8 of 9 games (at the time of writing this). What changed? Has anything been a consistent factor contributing to those losses?

Dave: Yes…the NBA catching up to them. The duo of Lamarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy is as dreamy as they come. You couldn’t ask for two more well-rounded, solid, dependable offensive players. Aldridge is showing real promise on defense as well. However that’s two players out of fifteen. The league has figured out that if you make the other thirteen guys win the game the Blazers will struggle. Lamarcus and Brandon will still contribute--with rebounds, assists, and hustle if not points--but if you make life tough on them they can’t yet pull out games themselves.

Unfortunately the Blazers have a lot of one- or two-dimensional players at other positions. Joel Przybilla is a good rebounder and shot blocker but his offense allows other teams to ignore him. Steve Blake sets up teammates well but cannot get his own shot. Travis Outlaw is all about getting his own shot but runs hot and cold and often wrecks our schemes at both ends of the court by not being where he’s supposed to. Martell Webster has made great strides but he still misses shots he should hit. When all of them are on we’re going to win against almost anybody. But that rarely happens in the same week, let alone the same game.

Also the team is really, really young. If the Spurs and Suns are long-standing beauties like Jennifer Aniston and Angelina Jolie and the Mavs and Nuggets are current hotties like Jessica Alba and Jessica Simpson then we’re freakin’ Hannah Montana. We’re cute enough, we have some talent, but there’s no mistaking us for the competition. We need another few years in the oven. One of the hallmarks of youth is inconsistency. Another is not being able to formulate a Plan B when Plan A fails. We have been plagued by both all season.

SoB: Our Spanish readers would probably like for me to cut to the chase and ask why is Sergio averaging less than 10 minutes per game? But I’d like to also hear more about your point guard rotation in general. When Conley was healthy we had a similar situation of having three deserving point guards with differing styles fighting for playing time. What is the point guard rotation right now in Portland? How successful has it been playing two point guards at the same time? Is there any ‘writing on the wall’ regarding the feeling of the front office on which players are pegged to be in the point guard rotation in future years?

Dave: Sergio is getting more run lately and has responded with a couple of nice games. But really he’s still a garbage-time wonder at best. His defense is poor. His decision-making is getting better but is still not up to snuff. Most importantly even though he passes the ball beautifully when Sergio plays best it’s all about Sergio…his dribbles, his passes, his speed. Our first unit needs to focus on Roy and Aldridge. Right now none of the three are experienced enough to make that mesh. Sergio is by far the most expendable of the group, so he plays with the second unit when he’s hot and sits on the pines when he’s not. There’s been plenty of both.

Our problem is not, as fans thought early in the season, that we have many deserving point guards worthy of playing time. It’s that we have many point guards who are decent but also inadequate, just in different ways. The field is thinning though. Steve Blake is the steadiest, most experienced, and probably plays the best overall game. You have a hard time living with his individual offense though and when he’s out of his comfort zone he’s in big trouble. Jarrett Jack is really proving himself more of a shooting guard. He has a strong, thick body and excels at getting to the hoop and finishing while drawing fouls. He also has a decent jumper when he’s in rhythm. He can pass and dribble but running the offense takes him away from his strengths. He’ll probably be a scoring combo guard somewhere down the line. Sergio needs way more experience, poise, and concentration to be a regular rotation player. Taurean Green has heart but is probably D-League material at this point.

As far as the future, Blake is probably gone when his option year comes up in 2009. Unless something changes the team will jettison him to open up more cap space that summer. Jack could very well stick if he continues to evolve as a bench scorer. Opinions are mixed on Sergio and he’s a guaranteed hot-headed conversation starter among Blazer fans. My guess is that he’ll not ever be consistent enough to be what this team needs but that he might develop elsewhere. Green is a non-factor at this point.

SoB: The Grizzlies success this year is likely tied to the development and maturation of 2nd year forward Rudy Gay. Overall, results are encouraging. Rudy has shown a lot of growth in the scoring department, at times looking like our #1 option on offense while playing both forward positions. However, improvement in other aspects of Rudy’s game, like passing, rebounding and staying out of foul trouble, are a little disappointing. In what ways and how much has Portland 2nd year studs, Roy and Aldridge, improved their game?

Dave: They are polar opposites of Rudy. He’s an amazing athletic talent who needs to learn how to refine his game. They have fairly refined games (for second year guys) but need to learn how to take advantage of their talent. You see evidence of their greatness on a weekly basis. They bust out with incredible games, clutch shots, highlight-reel defense, and enough smart, engaging newspaper quotes to make even their harshest critics love them. In those moments you forget they're young. On the other hand you also see evidence of their inexperience: hanging heads when things go wrong, failure to get consistent shots from consistent places on the court, failure to take the bull by the horns and dominate a game in favor of involving teammates, failure to drive the team over the top in games that could be won. If anything they’re too nice, too smooth, too unselfish. They need some fire, nastiness, and maybe even a little bit of that confident selfishness that makes superstars great.

As a huge Blazer fan I was harsh on this team’s players for years during the era that preceded this one. I disliked the both the games and the prospects of many Blazers of recent vintage and was not shy in saying so. I can tell you with confidence that these two are different. They are going to be great. That’s beyond question. The issue is, will they be the kind of great that makes you feel nice, warm, and fuzzy even though they never won it all or will they be the kind of great that makes you stand in awe at how they wrestled the league into submission? I’m rather hoping for the latter once Greg Oden returns and gets a couple years under his belt. But a little dash of Rudy Gay’s take-no-prisoners explosiveness would do all of them a world of good.

Got a prediction? Leave it in the comments.

Other Previews/Blogs
Beyond the Arc
Trailblazers - Mike Barret


ChipC3 said...

Call us bad hosts as the Grizzlies continue to punish teams coming to Memphis a little tired.

Grizzlies 110
Blazers 92

NancyW said...

Let's hope that playing the Spurs yesterday made the Blazers REALLY tired. The Grizzlies are on a roll and I see another big W coming in front of the home crowd.

My prediction:

Grizzlies 112
Blazers 95


Chris said...

Make it 4 of 5.

Grizz 111
Blazers 101

Anonymous said...

"No Television for this Game"? Are you sure about that? I'm showing it is on SportSouth!

hptmatt said...

my prediction?

By Q2, Zack and I will be making unwarranted blanket statements about the future of the Grizzlies as well as the Blazers :):)

Grizzlies 113
Blazers 107

ChipC3 said...

Oops. This game was one of the games added by Sportsouth. I missed that on my search. Sorry.

Jacob said...

Dave failed to mention a key point- Brandon Roy is in the midst of a career worst slump. In his last 8 games he's 33 for 103 from the field. Included in that stretch are a great 25 pt effort in a loss to NJ and 2 clutch plays in the last 30 seconds of a win vs. Sac. The other 6 games in this stretch have been awful for him though. He's being double teamed constantly and having trouble beating them. He's also missed a number of easy shots and has even struggled from the FT line. The Blazers badly need him to get his groove back.

The Blazers win games when Roy, Aldridge and at least one other guy (often Jack or Outlaw) are on their games and scoring at or near 20 pts. Lately, that has not happened very often.

The Blazers have to win on the road sometime... right?

Here's to a good game, guys! This is one of my favorite opponent blogs to read.

zack said...

thanks for stopping by jacob...

i'm disappointed that I won't be able to go over to Blazer's Edge during the game and chat with Blazer fans...

but me and Matt are going to the game tonight to see another Griz win...

my prediction:

Griz 113
Blazers 101

Despite a career night for Aldridge, the Griz will be on fire from downtown to seal the win...

I'm looking forward to seeing Darko, the Serbian Enforcer, patrol the lane tonight...

ChipC3 said...

Wow it sounds like three of the four Grizzlies bloggers will actually be at the game tonight!

By the way, for those attending the game I would like hear which heckle you think was best!

Louisville Richard, of local radio fame, had the best on Saturday night when refering to Antoine Walker he let this heckle out:

"Hey Antique Walker! How many teams have you not played for???"

Antoine heard it too judging from the cold stare he sent our way for the next few seconds!

zack said...

Is, "F you Portland, give us back our freaking #1 draft pick you stealing bastards" too harsh?

ChipC3 said...


MiledAnimal said...

As a Blazer fan, I think you guys are giving both teams too many points. I'm thinking the score will be more like M-92, P-84.

Zack: What, no sympathy for the Blazers losing GO for the season to knee surgery? No gratitude for sending Damon your way, or for the Blazers having a worse record than your Grizzlies? You're hard to please!

ChipC3 said...

Memphis averages 104.5 ppg. Portland averages 90.52.

Memphis gives up 105.5 ppg. Portland surrenders 96.76 ppg.

I can't imagine this game becoming a defensive battle.

And no Zack can't forget. He's a southerner after all. He's probably still got a Rebel Flag in his bedroom waiting for the south to rise again!

zack said...

thanks for stopping by miledanimal....we appreciate it...

on the high score...Griz fans are just use to seeing the score high, look at our previous game scores...

on sympathy...

well, I'm just kidding around in reality...

but May 22nd is nightmare memory for most Griz fans and every time we play portland or seattle, revenge will be on my mind for stealing our freaking draft pick...

and you can have Damon back!!


zack said...

chip....i'm a Midwesterner!!!

before I moved to memphis from missouri, I wasn't aware that I use to live in the north...


but the point remains...I will never forget May 22nd...I have the scars on my wrist to remind me every day!

EnglandDan said...

Don't listen to Dave with regards to El Mago, Sergio Rodriguez. He gives all the usual reasons that Blazer fans who don't like Serio give, but the evidence doesn't support it. On the horrible Blazer team Sergio Rodriguez is about the only guy with a positive plus minus for the season. He's adjusting to Nate McMillan's slow it down, hard-nosed style, and is becoming a proficient defender, the area where he has improved the most. He still needs a ton of work and isn't ready to start, but the Blazers score more points and give up less when he is in the game rather than when he's out. Fans of his from previously will probably be somewhat dismayed by how much slower and restrained his play has become under Nate.

Smith said...

Memphis a little tired, but i think May 22nd is nightmare memory for most Griz fans ...Teach English Abroad