The Memphis Grizzlies turned in one of their best defensive performances against the NBA’s top scorer in their last game. They hope a similar showing can give them back-to-back wins for the first time this season when they visit the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday.
Memphis (18-54) owns the league’s worst record and will snap a streak of three straight postseason appearances, but the team hasn’t given up just yet. The Grizzlies allowed their lowest opponent field-goal percentage of the season on Tuesday, holding the Los Angeles Lakers to 34.4 percent shooting from the field en route to an 88-86 victory.
Memphis allowed its fewest points since an 85-79 defeat to Portland (29-42) on Dec. 13 and snapped a four-game skid. Lakers’ star Kobe Bryant entered the game averaging 53.6 points in his previous five contests, including 60 in a win over Memphis on March 22, but the Grizzlies held him to 23 on 7-of-26 shooting.
“Even though I’m a rookie, I’m a man,” Grizzlies guard Tarence Kinsey said of Bryant’s previous showing versus his team. “It hurt my pride, it hurt everybody’s pride.”
Kinsey sure had a lot to be proud of Monday, scoring a career-high 24 points and matching his career best with seven rebounds. The rookie guard scored five points in the final minute, including the go-ahead 3-pointer with 54 seconds left. He is averaging 18.7 points over the last three games, a huge boost from his 4.7 season average.
Fellow rookie Rudy Gay also turned in one of his best showings with 20 points and a career-high 12 rebounds. Leading scorer Pau Gasol recorded 10 points, 16 rebounds, seven assists and three blocks, including one on Bryant’s game-tying attempt.
Gasol is averaging 23.5 points in two matchups with Portland this season, including 23 in a 103-102 win on Feb. 23. The Grizzlies, who have won four of their last five trips to Portland, are playing the fourth of a six-game road trip.
Memphis is 6-30 away from home, but has split its last four games there. The Blazers have taken two of three overall matchups between these teams this season and will try to win the series when they open a three-game homestand.
Portland went 2-2 on its recent road trip, dropping the last two, including a 100-89 defeat to Chicago on Monday. The Blazers shot 52.5 percent from the field, spurred by LaMarcus Aldridge’s 20 points on 10-of-15 shooting, but gave up 38 points to Luol Deng.
Aldridge, who also grabbed eight rebounds, has been a bright spot for the Blazers, averaging 19.4 points in his last five games—a jump from his 9.1 season mark.
“I wasn’t trying to play extra hard; I was just trying to play the way I’ve been playing, more aggressive rather than passive,” Aldridge said. “I just wish we would have won the game.”
Leading scorer Zach Randolph is averaging 18.0 points in two games since returning from bereavement leave—nearly five less than his season mark—but is averaging 29.3 in three contests versus the Grizzlies this season. He scored a career-high 42 points against Memphis in a 135-132 double-overtime win on Jan. 27.
Portland forward Ime Udoka had a career-best 21 points in that victory, but is day-to-day with a concussion. Blazers rookie Brandon Roy missed Monday’s contest to attend the birth of his first child in Seattle, but is expected back in the lineup Thursday.