Preview: Trail Blazers at Grizzlies
The Portland Trail Blazers are desperately trying to get back into the playoff race in the Western Conference and have won three of their last four games. Things get a lot tougher this week with a three-game road trip, beginning Wednesday at the Memphis Grizzlies. The Blazers are 3 1/2 games behind the eighth-place Utah Jazz but own an 8-21 record on the road, where they will play 12 of their last 23 games.The Grizzlies are currently occupying the No. 4 spot in the West and have won nine of their last 10 games thanks to a defense that is holding opponents to a league-low 89.5 points. Memphis' only loss in the last four weeks was at the East-leading Miami Heat, who the Grizzlies still managed to hold under the century mark. Portland is coming off a 122-105 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats on Monday and has scored at least 109 points in each of its last three contests.TV: 8 p.m. ET, Comcast SportsNet Northwest (Portland), SportSouth (Memphis)ABOUT THE TRAIL BLAZERS (28-31): Portland will have to visit the NBA-best San Antonio Spurs on Friday before finishing up its road trip at the New Orleans Hornets. The Blazers were hovering around the bottom of the West playoff bracket until a disastrous stretch of seven straight losses - six of those on the road - pushed them five games below .500. Portland started to put the pieces back together by taking three of four on its just-completed homestand, which included an impressive defensive performance in a 92-86 win over the Boston Celtics on Feb. 24. The Blazers did not need much defense thanks to all its offense in the last two games. Rookie Damian Lillard has totaled 44 points while turning the ball over only twice in back-to-back wins.ABOUT THE GRIZZLIES (39-19): Memphis All-Star Zach Randolph suffered a left ankle sprain in Friday's 98-91 setback at Miami and sat out Sunday's 108-82 win over the Orlando Magic. Randolph is questionable for Wednesday. The Grizzlies could use Randolph against the Blazers' athletic frontline of J.J. Hickson and LaMarcus Aldridge. Fellow power forward Darrell Arthur (neck) is also ailing, which could give Ed Davis the start next to Marc Gasol in the frontcourt. Davis had a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds off the bench on Sunday. Memphis is only a game up on fifth-place Denver and is two behind the Los Angeles Clippers in the No. 3 spot. The Grizzlies will visit both Denver and Los Angeles in a stretch of five of six on the road starting Friday.BUZZER BEATERS1. Portland has taken four of the last five in the series, including an 86-84 triumph at Memphis on Jan. 4. Wesley Matthews led the Blazers with 21 points.2. Gasol is averaging 18 points, 9.2 rebounds and 5.8 assists in the last five games.3. Hickson had a five-game double-double streak come to an end on Monday, when he was held to 15 points and eight boards.PREDICTION: Grizzlies 95, Trail Blazers 89
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