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Blazers Fall Flat in the Fourth

Sunday, February 22, 2015


Just prior to tip-off, LaMarcus Aldridge was scratched from the starting lineup. With him went a little of the starch from Sunday's matchup against the Memphis Grizzlies.

Somewhere between Thursday's game against the Jazz and Sunday's tip-off--it's not been made clear exactly when--Aldridge sprained his right thumb. To be clear: it's torn ligaments in the left hand that will require surgery in the offseason.

Meyers Leonard got the start in place of Aldridge, and he started hot, making two three's in the first quarter before being drawn into foul trouble by Memphis' more experienced, banging front line.

Still, for a time, the Blazer hung tough. During the third quarter, they could hardly miss. 

After making only four three-pointers in the first half, Portland nailed 7-of-10 attempts from deep in the third quarter. After Damian Lillard set the table, scoring 14 points in the period, Steve Blake went on a run, drilling three of the team's last four three's.

But in the fourth, Portland turned ice cold--so frigid their 13-point lead wouldn't be near insulation enough. The Grizzlies were determined, confident, and evenly paced.

As Memphis' defense constricted, the Grizzlies continued scoring in the paint. They finished with 54 points in the key to Portland's 26. The Blazers, meanwhile, forced up shot after isolated, fading shot, and missed 14 of their last 16 attempts. 

Over the course of final quarter, the Grizzlies outscored the Blazers 34-15. Memphis won going away, 98-92.

The stifling loss--and the subtraction of Aldridge--generally ruined Arron Afflalo's Blazers debut. Afflalo was in the mix, and at times affective, but Portland needed more than the new acquisition could offer.



Meyers Leonard
Asking any backup to suddenly start again Gasol and Randolph is a difficult task. At first the Grizzlies allowed Leonard to test his three-point shot and he responded in kind. After that early flurry, however, the Grizzly bigs took control by closing out and suckering Leonard into foul trouble. He finished with 11 points while making 3-of-5 from beyond the arc, but grabbed only a single rebound.


Nicolas Batum
Perhaps sensing Arron Afflalo in the wings lit a fire beneath Batum, who shot without hestiation, Sunday. It was the first time in a long time Batum executed as if he had no other choice, and nothing to lose. He was the best Blazer in uniform, Sunday, which is something that has rarely been able to be said this season. He finished with 17 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, while making 3-of-7 attempts from deep. After one, Batum punched the air in celebration, as livid as he's been all year.


Robin Lopez
Memphis' front line of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph got the best of Lopez, Sunday night. Portland's center scored six points, grabbed seven rebounds, and generally kept a low profile.


Wesley Matthews
Matthews scored only four points and they all came at the line. He did not hit from the field, missing all seven tries. It was his first game of the season in which Matthews did not make a field goal.


Damian Lillard
Lillard had a monster third quarter, scoring 14 points. But the Blazers' needed him to do the same in the fourth and instead Lillard went scoreless. He finished with 18 points, and continued struggling with his outside shot, making only 2-of-8 attempts. Indeed, Lillard-time it was not.


Steve Blake
Blake had an inspired offensive outburst, making three three-pointers in the final 1:40 of the third quarter, but was otherwise bland. His four three-pointers on the night and 13 points were good for season-highs.


Arron Afflalo
After only one practice with the Blazers, Afflalo can't be overly judged. Nonetheless, he showed that he's a clear and competent upgrade to Portland's bench. He finished with eight points and four rebounds in his Blazers debut.

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