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Grizzlies hope to catch road-weary Blazers at right time

Sports Xchange
12 Dec 2018, 14:38 GMT+10

The Memphis Grizzlies hope to catch a break in the schedule when they host the Portland Trail Blazers to open a three-game homestand on Wednesday night.

The Grizzlies have lost three of their last four at home, but get a chance to start a positive trend against an opponent that will be playing on the second night of a back-to-back.

The Trail Blazers began their tough 48-hour sequence Tuesday night in Houston, where they exhausted three key starters -- including backcourt stars Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum -- upward of 37 minutes in a 111-103 defeat.

It was one of those nights in the Western Conference where Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts wasn't sure who the Grizzlies were rooting against when they were watching on TV -- the team from their own division (Houston) or the team they'd be playing the next night (Portland).

"It's a long season," Stotts noted this week. "It's so tight, you don't even know who to root for when they're playing. You just have to take care of your own business."

The Trail Blazers couldn't do so Tuesday despite Lillard's 34-point night, losing for the seventh time in the last 10 games.

They have now dropped their last five in a row on the road.

The Grizzlies, meanwhile, haven't played since a 105-99 loss at Denver on Monday.

Memphis big man Marc Gasol welcomed the day off Tuesday as he's been bothered of late by a sore ankle. He appeared to be at far less than 100 percent when he contributed seven points and two rebounds to the defeat at Denver, whereas Nuggets big man Nikola Jokic exploded for 27 points and 12 rebounds.

This is not the time to be taking time off, the veteran told reporters at practice Tuesday.

"If you lose two games in a row, it doesn't help at all," Gasol said. "You feel more pressure to play and to win and help the team in any way you can. If you're not effective, you think maybe I should have rested. You hope, like in the New Orleans game (last Friday), you can help the team win."

Gasol has recorded double-digit rebounds in two of the last nine games, a stretch during which Memphis has lost six times.

He wasn't at his best in four games against Portland last season, averaging only 12.5 points and 6.3 rebounds.

The Grizzlies struggled offensively in their last two games, which included a 111-88 home loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. They made just 15 of their 57 3-pointers, with star guard Mike Conley shooting 9-for-26 overall.

A Grizzlies-Trail Blazers duel means a head-to-head between two of the top point guards in the West.

Lillard has come away a winner in three of his last four trips to Memphis, averaging 23.0 points in those games.

Conley, meanwhile, has averaged only 15.3 points and shot 37.6 percent in his last seven games against Portland.

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