All good streaks must end and so it was with the Grizzlies' seven-game win streak, which came to a sputtering halt last night in Portland, a game in which the Blazers' 6'11” mid-range sniper Lamarcus Aldridge torched an overmatched Marreese Speights for 14 first-quarter points, Blazers' center Marcus Camby maneuvered around an under-sized, under-skilled, and/or under-rested Griz frontcourt for 22 rebounds, and recently reliable scorers Rudy Gay, Marc Gasol, and Mike Conley (a combined 24 points on 10-38 shooting) routinely left shots short.
This game could be seen as either an anomaly or a revelation.
On one hand, there's plenty of reason to believe that this was a loss preordained by scheduling and the flow of the season. It was the second night of a back-to-back set on the road, which is historically a tough game to win. Added to that, it was the the team's third game in four days, against a team with one of the league's best home-court advantages (Portland is now 8-1 at home), and — perhaps most meaningful of all — followed a dramatic and no-doubt draining comeback win against the Warriors the night before. Gay, for instance, had played 44 minutes against Golden State. (Another element, of course, is that Portland presents some specific match-up problems for the Grizzlies with their dual quality length up front — akin to the Lakers — and the rare small forward in Gerald Wallace who's an athletic match for Gay.)
On the other hand, the loss fits into a pattern for the Grizzlies this season of beating bad teams and losing to good ones — of which their were few during the team's seven-game streak.
Through 17 games, the Grizzlies are 2-7 against teams above .500 and 8-0 against teams below .500. The two “good” wins were both at home, against the Houston Rockets and the Chicago Bulls sans Derrick Rose. This pattern is going to get disrupted in the coming weeks and what the Grizzlies really are will be revealed by which side of the path the team strays down most frequently — beating good teams or losing to bad/mediocre ones.
With three of the next four games against Western Conference playoff contenders and lacking last night's scheduling asterisk — at the Clippers Thursday with a day's rest and at home Monday and Tuesday with the Spurs and Nuggets — we should start to get a better feel for how good the Grizzlies really are without Zach Randolph. And Saturday's game at Phoenix — at the end of the four-game West Coast trip — could easily be where the team's perfect run against sub .500 opponents ends.