Blazers lock up 6th spot in the West with winBy ANNE M. PETERSON, AP Sports Writer Wednesday, Apr 13, 2011
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP)—The Trail Blazers were relieved to finally lock up the sixth seed in the Western Conference.
“Whenever you can get through everything we’ve been through this year—the injuries and the guys out of the lineup—and still be the sixth seed feels good,” said LaMarcus Aldridge(notes), who had 22 points and 11 rebounds Tuesday night in a 102-89 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies.
While the Blazers secured their spot in the standings, they’ll have to wait until after the league wraps up the regular season on Wednesday night to find out their opponent in the first-round of the playoffs.
Portland finishes on the road against Golden State, which was long ago eliminated.
“To get the sixth spot, I think is a great accomplishment for this team and all they had to go through this year, different guys having to fill in and make adjustments,” coach Nate McMillan said. “Guys stepped in a played good basketball, and gave us an opportunity to play in the postseason.”
Portland got hit this season with several key knee injuries: Center Greg Oden(notes) had another season-ending surgery. Three-time All-Star Brandon Roy(notes) struggled with his knees earlier in the season, and eventually had arthroscopic surgery on both of them. Center Marcus Camby(notes) also had surgery in January.
“Especially for the mental part of it,” he said. “Knowing what we’ve been though this season with the guys getting injured and sitting out—six sounds better than eight, you know?’”’
Memphis, which played without starters Zach Randolph(notes) and Tony Allen(notes), was still wrestling with New Orleans for the final two spots. The Grizzlies visit the Clippers while the Hornets are at Dallas on Wednesday night.
Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins decided to rest Randolph and Allen, who were not in the starting lineup against the Blazers but were in uniform—albeit under sweats—on the bench. There was speculation that the move was tactical to set up a favorable playoff matchup.
Hollins maintained after the game that both had nagging injuries that needed rest.
“I didn’t want to play Zach these last two games because I want to get him rested and fresh. He hurt his elbow and he has the bad knee and I just didn’t want to have him out there banging for two more games when we have the playoffs going.”
Allen, Hollins said, had swelling in his knee and ankle.
Randolph, who once played for the Blazers, is averaging a team-high 20.1 points and 12.2 rebounds this season. Allen is averaging 6.9 points and 2.7 rebounds.
Andre Miller hit a pair of free throws to tie it at 45 at the break.
The Blazers held off the Grizzlies the rest of the way. Fernandez finished with 18 points.
Conley led the Grizzlies with 17 points. Gasol had 11 points and 10 rebounds.
“I think our mindset is that teams will fall where they may, and we’re just going to have to deal with whoever we play and be focused for that team,” Conley said. “Any way you cut it, you’re going to play a good team.”
The Blazers saw the return of center Marcus Camby, who missed two games with a strained neck. Camby banged his head on the floor in a collision with David Lee(notes) in a loss to the Warriors last week.
Camby had four points and 11 rebounds.
NOTES: The Blazers wore their white “Rip City” jerseys. … The Blazers signed 7-foot center Earl Barron(notes) for the rest of the season. He has played parts of five seasons with Miami, New York, Phoenix and Milwaukee. He has averaged 5.2 points and 3.6 rebounds, appearing in 108 games, including 27 starts. Barron played late in Tuesday night’s game and had two points. … Portland also finished sixth in the Western Conference last season. The Blazers were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Suns.