I'm making this short because, like everyone else, I have phony trades to concoct and most of you would rather read that than get into the weeds of an increasingly familiar loss.
The Lead: Playing without Zach Randolph (“flu-like symptoms”), the Grizzlies were plagued by poor defensive rebounding and turnovers in the first half and a cratering offense in the second half, failing to build a lead on the Blazers — their biggest: 8 — that the team's typically woeful fourth-quarter offensive could withstand.
And oh, those woes: The Grizzlies managed only 12 fourth-quarter points in a two-point loss. Mike Conley had a great chance to take the lead in the final seconds at the end of a chaotic possession: Marc Gasol rumbled to the sideline to track down a Rudy Gay miss and go the ball to Conley at the top of the key, who was guarded by 6'7” small forward Nicholas Batum. Conley drove right, got by Batum, leaned in and bounced out to create space, and got to the rim — but couldn't finish. A Lamarcus Aldridge free-throw and a missed desperation Rudy Gay heave later, and the Grizzlies had their fourth loss in their past six games.
Man of the Match: In Randolph's absence, Marreese Speights got the start and did a darn good Z-Bo impression, scoring 22 points on 7-15 shooting and grabbing 13 rebounds — including 7 on the offensive end — in 27 minutes. Speights had 18 and 10 in the second half alone, keeping the team afloat as the perimeter starters were combining to shoot 1-17 (no typo).
Nightly Number: How is this for a contrast in styles: In a game in which each team had 81 field goal attempts, the Blazers took 27 from three-point range; the Grizzlies took five. Five! Hey, percentage-wise the Grizzlies shot better from three, 40% to 37%, and yet three-point shooting — particularly from Wesley Matthews, who was 5-8 and has done this at FedExForum before — is why the Blazers were in this game. And, since they actually shot worse in the fourth than the Grizzlies but scored two more points off three pointers, it's why they won.
The Match-Up: Given rookie Damian Lillard's defensive struggles and the lack of a significant defensive presence in the paint, I was expecting another big game from Mike Conley tonight. No dice. Conley finished with 6 points and 3 assists on 2-8 shooting. But it wasn't just Conley. The Grizzlies got very little from their backcourt tonight. With Tony Allen playing an unheard of 41 minutes and getting nine field-goal attempts, many of them catch-and-shoot jumpers off ill-advised passes, the Grizzlies backcourt rotation combined to score 19 points on 6-23 shooting. You can't win NBA games with that. By contrast, the Blazer backcourt's unexceptional 36 points on 15-31 shooting looks pretty good.
Elements of Style: At least home fans came out of this with one for the season highlight scrapbook: Marc Gasol running the break down the middle of the floor and finishing it with a no-look alley-oop pass to Mo Speights for a dunk.
The Jacob Riis Report: My biggest Blazers takeaway: Damian Lillard is smaller than I thought, and little bit less athletic. Lillard is listed as 6'3”, 195. Mike Conley is listed as 6'1”, 185. They looked about the same size to me. I know he had a subpar game tonight amid a fabulous rookie season, but after my first up-close look, I'm downgrading his tremendous upside potential a little bit.
Tweet O’ the Game: HOW ON EARTH DID A HAMED PASS TO A DRIVING TONY ALLEN RESULT IN A MISS???? — @peteredmiston
Arena Action: Ace local folk-rock trio Star & Micey classed up the joint as the in-arena house band tonight. Here's an encore performance:
Where They Stand: The Grizzlies fell to 20-10 and finally slipped out of the top four, now sitting at fifth place in the West, a game behind the Golden State Warriors.
Looking Ahead: The Grizzlies hit the road for a three-game West Coast trip, starting in Phoenix Sunday and continuing with Sacramento and Golden State.
Announced Attendance: 15,823
Marc Gasol had a career-high 8 blocks, which also tied a franchise record.
With Zach Randolph out and Jerryd Bayless in, all my pregame stuff about Darrell Arthur and Tony Wroten was rendered meaningless. Arthur didn't play a minute at the three and Wroten didn't play at all.