Wednesday, March 13, 2013
PORTLAND — Zach Randolph sat out the Grizzlies' first two games against the Trail Blazers this season. So he made sure he wasn't going to miss No. 3 against his former team.
Randolph returned from an ankle injury with 19 points and 10 rebounds, and Memphis won its fifth straight game with a 102-97 victory over Portland on Tuesday night.
“I felt pretty good out there,” said Randolph, who had missed the last four games with a left ankle sprain. “A little sore, but overall I felt all right.”
Marc Gasol had 20 points for the Grizzlies, who have won 13 of their last 14 games and sit in fourth place in the Western Conference. Mike Conley added 14 points and a career-high 15 assists, and Memphis matched its season high with 31 assists overall.
LaMarcus Aldridge had 28 points and 10 rebounds for the Blazers, whose playoff hopes are slipping away. Rookie Damian Lillard had 27 points.
Memphis (43-19) led by as many as 15 points in the second half but the Blazers closed the gap to 79-72 after Lillard's 3-pointer and a pair of free throws from Aldridge.
Eric Maynor's 3-pointer with 3:49 left narrowed Memphis' lead to 83-78, but Tayshaun Prince answered with a 3-pointer for the Grizzlies.
Portland kept up the pressure, pulling within 89-84 on a pair of free throws from Maynor with 1:21 to go, but Conley came back with a short jumper and Portland was unable to catch up.
“We just kept holding them off,” Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said.
The Grizzlies trailed the Blazers by as many as 17 points in the third quarter last Wednesday before winning 91-85.
Portland (29-34) returned home after a 1-2 road trip, including the loss at Memphis, for a three-game homestand. The Blazers are four games back of Los Angeles for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
“Definitely that door is closing,” Aldridge said. “We're going to have to string together some wins fast or that door is going to close on us.”
Hollins said before the game he planned to start Randolph but wasn't sure how much he would play. Randolph showed no lingering effects from the injury and finished with 28 minutes.
“He's back. He made them pay in the paint,” Gasol said. “There's no way around it — we need Zach. There's no way around that.”
Portland rookie Meyers Leonard also returned after missing a game with a sprained right ankle.
The Blazers went up 21-17 late in the first quarter on Lillard's 3-pointer, but they struggled to extend the lead any further. Memphis made its move, going on an 11-2 run midway through the second quarter to go up 36-29 after Ed Davis' running hook shot.
The Grizzlies had a 48-40 lead at the break, shooting nearly 54 percent from the floor. They finished with just over 51 percent shooting for the game.
There was a lot of jawing back-and-forth between the teams, particularly between former teammates Randolph and Aldridge.
Randolph played in Portland his first six seasons in the league. He and Aldridge were together for just one season, when Aldridge was a rookie in 2006-07. Randolph was then traded to the Knicks in the offseason.
“I was talking to him telling him to get in the paint,” Randolph said. “It was just fun, nothing serious. I've been talking to him since he came in the league.”
Aldridge said: “That's just two guys being competitive.”
Gasol's 20-foot jumper gave Memphis a 57-47 lead with seven minutes to go in the third quarter. Gasol hit another long jumper that pushed it to 64-51.
“It was a struggle to score all night,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. “I thought we had some good efforts, but they're the fourth seed in the West right now. They're a good team, playoff tested, and our team can learn from the physical nature of the way they play, how they play defense. It's certainly disappointing to lose, but I thought we gave a good effort.”
Portland was coming off a 98-96 loss at New Orleans on Sunday. The Grizzlies defeated the Hornets the day before.
Notes: The teams split the previous two meetings this season, both in Memphis. They meet once more on April 3 at the Rose Garden. ... Memphis' victory snapped a three-game losing streak to Portland. ... Lillard, who has won the NBA's Rookie of the Month honors in each of the first four months of the season, has seven straight games with 20 or more points. ... Conley had 12 points and four of his assists in the fourth quarter alone.