The Grizzlies faced a daunting task over the first four games of their homestand but have beaten Houston, the Los Angeles Lakers, Sacramento and Denver to improve to 16-5 at home this season.
“We’re kind of sneaking up on them,” forward Stromile Swift said. “A lot of people, they know we’re a better team, but I don’t think they’re really taking us seriously yet. We’re coming. We’re still not there, but we’re getting better.”
Wells, acquired in a Dec. 3 trade with the Trail Blazers, will face his former teammates for the second time after scoring 16 points against them in a 93-79 Grizzlies home win on Dec. 7. He visits Portland for the first time since the trade on March 3.
“I’m definitely different. I’m a Grizzlie now,” said Wells, who spent his first five full seasons with Portland.
Memphis—allowing 95 points per game this season—has stepped up the defense on the homestand with just 87 points allowed to improve to 10-1 in January.
“This was a big week for our team,” coach Hubie Brown said. “We came out of the week with four wins, and that is what we are happy about. We have now won 10 of our last 11. … We are not a great defensive team, but we’re good. We’re progressing defensively, but we are not there yet.”
The Grizzlies, who close the homestand against Utah on Friday, have moved ahead of the Nuggets for the seventh-best record in the Western Conference.
“I think we might be turning some eyes,” point guard Jason Williams said.
The Blazers improved to 2-1 following a five-game slide with a 94-83 win over the Washington Wizards on Monday.
Damon Stoudamire hit six three-pointers and added a season-high 11 assists in 44 minutes aganst the Wizards. Stoudamire, who was 6-for-12 from the field, attempted at least 10 shots for the first time in six games.
“This is the most shots I’ve got in a while,” he said. “If I get a volume of shots, I know I can shoot the ball. I just haven’t been shooting it that much.”
“The focus was on not just trying to score by yourself, but by putting the ball in the post,” Blazers coach Maurice Cheeks said. “And we got a lot of balls thrown out of the post to score the basketball. That’s where our game opened up. That’s what made us.”
The Blazers close out their road trip against the Atlanta Hawks on Thursday.
STANDINGS (through Jan. 26): Trail Blazers - 4th place (tied), 12 GB, Pacific Division. Grizzlies - 5th place, 6 GB, Midwest Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Trail Blazers - Randolph, 21.3 ppg and 11 rpg; Stoudamire, 5.7 apg. Grizzlies - Gasol, 17.5 ppg and 8 rpg; Williams, 7 apg.
SEASON SERIES: Tied, 1-1.
LAST MEETING: Dec. 7; Grizzlies, 93-79. At Memphis, Tenn., the Grizzlies trailed by as many as 15 points in the second quarter but outscored the Blazers 50-29 in the second half to win their fifth straight.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Trail Blazers - 4-16 on the road; Grizzlies - 16-5 at home.