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Grizzlies maintain playoff seeding by routing Blazers

The SportsXchange

PORTLAND -- For the first time this season, it looked easy for the Memphis Grizzlies against the Portland Trail Blazers.

Part of it was the absence of Portland's starting forwards, LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum, to injuries.

The other part is the teams are heading in opposite directions.

Memphis (51-24) is tied with Denver for the third best record in the Western Conference and is looking to secure home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

Portland (33-42) has lost six straight games and is bound for the lottery for the second straight year.

"Memphis is a top seed in the West," Portland coach Terry Stotts said. "We did some good things tonight, but you have to give (the Grizzlies) credit. They're a better team than we are."

Mike Conley scored 20 points and Zach Randolph added 17 points and eight assists for the Grizzlies, who never trailed in a game much different than the teams' three previous meetings. Memphis is 3-1 against Portland this season, but its other victories were by five and six points.

"It was a solid win," Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said. "We executed well offensively throughout the game, and in the second half our defense really amped up."

JJ Hickson totaled 17 points and nine rebounds and Damian Lillard had 17 and six assists for the Blazers.

Memphis shot .507 from the field, won the rebound battle 37-30 and took advantage of 19 turnovers by the Blazers, who were without injured starting forwards LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum.

"We moved the ball so well tonight that the offense came easier for us," Conley said. "Everybody touched the ball, everybody was engaged and involved in each play. When we play unselfish, it's pretty good for us."

Eleven Grizzlies got into the scoring act, including Ed Davis, who had 12 points on 5-for-6 shooting to go with 10 rebounds in 18 minutes off the bench.

Portland cut a 62-46 deficit early in the third quarter to 63-56. Then Memphis used a 9-0 spurt to make it 72-56; the margin was 77-64 heading into the final period. The Blazers got no closer than 11 points the rest of the way.

Memphis shot .611 in seizing a 57-46 lead at halftime. Conley and Tony Allen each scored 12 points for the Grizzlies, who were on top 32-21 after one quarter and led by as many as 18 points in the half.

Hickson had 11 points and Lillard and Wesley Matthews 10 apiece for the Blazers, who shot .487 from the field but made only 3 of 11 3-point attempts and committed nine turnovers in the half.

NOTES: It's the first time Memphis has taken the series from the Blazers since the 2005-06 season. ... Portland hopes Aldridge, who missed his fourth straight game with a sprained ankle, will return for Friday's home date with Houston. Batum, who aggravated a shoulder injury at Utah on Monday night, is expected to be out longer. ... Newly signed veteran guard Keyon Dooling saw his first action for Memphis, hoisting an airball while going scoreless in two minutes. ... The Blazers' starting lineup includes three rookies -- Lillard, Victor Claver and Meyers Leonard -- the first time the club has started three first-year players since January 2009 (Batum, Rudy Fernandez and Greg Oden). ... Oden, rehabbing from his latest knee surgery, watched the game from courtside seats. ... All five Portland rookies, including Joel Freeland and Will Barton, will see more extensive duty the rest of the season. "I want to be competitive," coach Terry Stotts said. "They will get more of a learning experience. What I'm looking for is how we play, and if we're doing things the way we want. It's a good teaching environment. We want to make the most of these last eight games." ... How important is homecourt advantage in the first round? "We had it last year and it didn't mean anything," said Hollins, referring to the Grizzlies' first-round ouster by the Clippers. "It's about playing well when we get to the playoffs. Wherever we wind up, we wind up. We're going to try to win games while resting guys some, but without sitting them out."
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