PORTLAND, Ore. — Two teams with good early-season results and Western Conference playoff expectations collide Tuesday night when the Memphis Grizzlies (6-4) visit the Portland Trail Blazers (6-4) at Moda Center.
The Grizzlies beat the Los Angeles Clippers 113-104 Saturday but lost to the Los Angeles Lakers 107-102 Sunday to open a five-game road trip that continues Tuesday against the Blazers.
In the second game of the back-to-back contests at Staples Center, Memphis roared back from a 22-point deficit to close to within 103-102 inside the final minute before the Lakers closed out the win.
“We just waited too long to have a sense of urgency,” said point guard Mike Conley, who led the Grizzlies with 23 points. “We have to do better, especially on the second of back-to-back games. We didn’t start the way we wanted to. You can’t spot any team in this league that many points. We didn’t have what it took early on.”
Memphis coach David Fizdale felt much the same way.
“The Lakers brought it to us, attacked us in waves through the first half,” Fizzle said. “But we fought back. We were within one possession at the end. I like the resolve we showed.”
Center Marc Gasol had 15 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists but was only 6 for 18 from the field against the Lakers. Gasol is averaging 19.9 points, 9.3 rebounds and 3.0 assists for the Grizzlies, who are third in the NBA in defensive rating.
“They’re a very good defensive team, a very smart team,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said. “Their second unit is dynamic and good defensively. They create turnovers, make it a slow possession game and grind it out. Everything evolves around Conley and Gasol.”
Until recently, rookie Dillon Brooks was a member of Memphis’ second unit. The former University of Oregon star was chosen with the 45th pick in the second round of the draft this year. Brooks, who is averaging 8.6 points and 3.9 rebounds in nearly 29 minutes a game, started the past two games. The 6-foot-6 small forward scored 13 points on 4-for-6 shooting against the Lakers.
“I’m trying to give effort and maximize my time on the court,” Brooks said. “There are a lot of vets on this team, and you take what you can learn from each one of them.”
Portland has won two close ones in a row, both at home. The Blazers beat the Lakers 113-110 on Thursday and then held off the Oklahoma City Thunder 103-99 on Sunday.
“In the West, we’re going to have seven, eight, nine teams — a bunch — fighting it out for the same position,” said Portland point guard Damian Lillard, who matched his season high with 36 points and doled out a season-high 13 assists against the Thunder. “We’re going to have a lot of close games.
“The more of them we can win, we’ll do ourselves a favor and hurt other teams fighting for what we’re fighting for. It’s good for our growth and putting us in a position we want to be in.”Let's