PORTLAND, Ore. (AP)—Interim coach Kevin Pritchard peeked into the Trail Blazers’ locker room well after his first career victory, still clutching the game ball.
“One of the officials ran it over to me,” Pritchard said. “This means a lot to me. I can’t tell you how much this ball means to me.”
Pritchard directed Portland to an 80-66 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday night, his first win since taking over the team following Maurice Cheeks’ firing. Pritchard, the director of player personnel, lost his first four games and the Blazers had lost six in a row overall.
Lorenzen Wright had 21 points and 12 rebounds for the Grizzlies in their lowest-scoring game of the season.
“When the ball won’t go in, you can’t do anything about it. But you have to keep putting it up,” Wright said. “You have to keep getting attempts and hope some of them fall.”
Memphis remained in the playoff picture despite being banged up. Former Blazers player Bonzi Wells was placed on the injured list a week ago by Memphis because of a herniated disc in his back. Stromile Swift has a sprained left ankle, and coach Mike Fratello said there was no telling when leading scorer Pau Gasol will return from a foot injury.
Still, the Grizzlies have won five of their last seven games and are seventh in the Western Conference, ahead of Denver and Los Angeles Lakers. Memphis beat Utah 94-82 Friday night.
The Blazers also are banged up. Earlier in the day, the team placed guard Nick Van Exel on the injured list with an arthritic left knee. Guard Damon Stoudamire sat out with a strained right hamstring and forward Zach Randolph was still resting with soreness in his right knee.
But Pritchard has turned his focus to developing young talent like draft pick Sebastian Telfair now that the playoffs are all but an impossibility.
The losses still stung, although Pritchard said he tried to make light of the situation in a recent conversation with team general manager John Nash.
“I told John that if we go 0-27 I might go to the Hawaiian islands and never be seen again,” he said.
Memphis led by as many as 10 points early but Portland, using some quirky lineups, came back to go up 32-25 on Joel Przybilla’s dunk, and then a pair of free throws.
After leading 40-35 at halftime, the Blazers struggled to hold off the Grizzlies until Abdur-Rahim’s long jumper gave Portland a 46-45 advantage and spark an 11-2 run capped by Frahm’s 3-pointer.
“I’m just happy for the young guys,” Abdur-Rahim said. “They played well, and I think they can go home and feel good about that.”
Memphis guard Jason Williams sprained his right ankle in the first half. He
The Blazers dropped the season’s first two meetings against the Grizzlies. … Portland signed free agent guard Maurice Baker to a 10-day contract to fill Van Exel’s roster spot. Baker signed a 10-day contract with the Los Angeles Clippers in February, and played a minute in one game. He also played for the Dakota Wizards of the Continental Basketball Association, averaging 17.4 points and seven assists in 34 games. … Blazers rookie center Ha Seung-Jin, the first South Korean player to appear in the NBA, scored his first career points on a layup with 15.3 seconds left.