Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Consider your gut checked
First off, all credit to Lionel Hollins and the Memphis Grizzlies. Most teams in their position have long since packed it in for the season, but they're still out there playing their butts off trying to get wins that, for all intents and purposes, won't mean a thing. It's a surefire sign the Grizzlies made the right decision giving Hollins the head coaching gig. Kudos to them.
But even BIGGER kudos to the Trail Blazers. You knew they weren't going to give up, even down 18 and even after OJ Mayo starting draining three-pointers from the concession stand. Trail Blazers teams of old would have folded, but this iteration managed to come away with a bigtime 96-93 victory.
The Red and Black couldn't get anything going on offense in the second quarter, thanks in part to foul trouble for Joel Przybilla and Greg Oden, and they went into the half down 12.
But the third quarter was another story. Rudy Fernandez found the touch from beyond the arc. Przybilla went 5-for-5 from the free throw line. LaMarcus Aldridge scored 10 of his 15 points and Portland went on to outscore Memphis by 10, putting the Trail Blazers in position to pressure the Grizzlies down the stretch
And that stretch fourth quarter run ended up being the Brandon Roy show featuring Travis Outlaw. Roy scored 13 of his 24 points in the final frame, reminding everyone that, despite a sore knee, he's still one of the preeminent clutch performers in the game.
Outlaw once again provided the last-game firepower, banking in a pivotal and1 jumper with 13 second to play that also fouled out Rudy Gay. Sure, Outlaw missed the free throw, but whatever. It's no wonder Outlaw's name always comes up in Memphis trade rumors. I'd try to trade for him too if he kept drilling clutch shots in the grill of my collective franchise.
Winning tonight sets up yet another big game on Wednesday, this time against the Spurs. It'll probably be the last chance the Trail Blazers will have to move up in the race for homecourt advantage. San Antonio played, and won, tonight as well, so they'll be just as tired and motivated. One thing is certain: It'll take a better performance tomorrow to come away with a win.