Just reaching the playoffs for the first time in six years isn’t good enough for the Portland Trail Blazers, who still have a chance to open the postseason at home.
The Trail Blazers look to rebound from a tough loss Tuesday night and run their winning streak over the Memphis Grizzlies to seven games.
Portland (48-28) secured its first playoff berth since 2003 before even taking the court Sunday by virtue of Phoenix losing to Dallas earlier in the day. The Trail Blazers reached the playoffs in every season between 1983 and 2003 before the postseason drought.
Coach Nate McMillian told his players before the game that now isn’t a time for a letdown.
“I congratulated the guys for getting there, but our work is still not done,” he said. “We have a chance for home court and we have to keep working at it.”
The Blazers didn’t respond well to McMillan’s words, however, losing 102-88 to Houston to snap a four-game winning streak. The defeat dropped them a half-game behind the Rockets for the fourth seed - and home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs - as well as giving Houston the tiebreaker in the season series if the teams finish with the same record.
Portland had averaged 111.8 points in its previous four games, which it won by an average of 24.0 points. Despite getting 22 points apiece from LaMarcus Aldridge and Travis Outlaw on Sunday, the Blazers never led after the opening minutes.
Aldridge, averaging 27.7 points in the last three games, fell on his right wrist late in the game. However, he said an X-ray didn’t reveal any damage and the injury was only a sprain.
Despite the loss, the Blazers insist it didn’t significantly dampen the enthusiasm afterward.
“Of course, we would have rather won, but we’re still in the playoffs,” Joel Przybilla said. “For guys that have been here a while … through a lot of the downs, it’s very gratifying for us to know we’re going to get in the playoffs and hopefully get in there for a lot of years to come.”
The Blazers haven’t lost back-to-back games since falling to Houston and San Antonio on Feb. 24 and 25. They’ve won six straight over the Grizzlies (22-54), including three this season, and have won their last four visits to Memphis.
The Grizzlies, though, have played well recently. They matched a season high with their fourth straight win Saturday, 107-102 over Milwaukee.
“When you start seeing wins and see that you have the capability to win in this league, that’s what it’s about,” coach Lionel Hollins said. “Ultimately, we want to compete for a championship. You can’t do that without starting at some point.”
The Grizzlies, who are 28th in the NBA in scoring at 93.9 points per game, have averaged 110.0 in the last four contests.
Gay is averaging 24.8 points on 54.5 percent shooting during the winning streak. He’s averaged 15.7 points and shot 41.7 percent against Portland this season.
Memphis last won five straight to end the 2005-06 season.