Trail Blazers brace for suddenly hungry Grizzlies

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The Portland Trail Blazers get a chance to personally thank the Memphis Grizzlies for their surprising contribution to the Northwest Division title chase when the clubs hook up Wednesday night in Memphis, Tenn.

The Grizzlies, who have an incentive to lose these days as they jockey for position entering the NBA Draft Lottery, shocked Northwest-contending Minnesota 101-93 on the road Monday night.

The loss in what had been expected to be a sure win basically knocked the Timberwolves (42-33) out of contention in the Northwest, as they now find themselves 4 1/2 games behind the Trail Blazers (46-28) with seven games to play.

Now it's up to Portland, playing on the second night of a back-to-back, to avoid a similar fate when they get a shot at the Grizzlies on Wednesday.

The Trail Blazers have solidified their spot atop the Northwest by opening a three-game trip with wins over Oklahoma City and New Orleans. They had lost two straight before heading east.

The victory over the Pelicans came Tuesday night when Evan Turner, fined for an on-court scuffle in the Oklahoma City game, hit a key 3-pointer late in a 107-103 road victory.

The win pushed the Trail Blazers 2 1/2 games ahead of Oklahoma City (44-31) atop the Northwest with eight to play.

Turner's heroics came 48 hours after he'd created a stir, and 24 hours after he'd been fined $10,000 for the incident, during the win at Oklahoma City.

The veteran admitted afterward he felt bad for his actions, first in creating a scene while trying to check into the game in the third quarter, then in instigating a shoving match involving four players about a minute later.

"I feel bad in general. Literally, I just pushed the first two people I saw," Turner said of the Thunder's Terrance Ferguson and Russell Westbrook. "Me, personally, I don't feel any good about pushing -- no disrespect to Ferguson -- a 19 year-old kid."

Memphis' win over Minnesota gave the Grizzlies (20-54) one more win than Phoenix (19-56) and only one fewer than Atlanta (21-53) in the three-team duel for the distinction of having the worst record in the NBA this season.

The Grizzlies had lost four in a row and 23 of 24 before the stunner at Minnesota. Four days earlier, they'd suffered one of the biggest embarrassments in franchise history, falling 140-79 at Charlotte.

Wayne Selden, the club's high scorer at Minnesota with 23 points, said the Grizzlies hadn't forgotten about the Charlotte disaster when they took the court against the potent Timberwolves.

"After losing a big one, we really buckled down," he noted. "I think we were losing focus a little bit, and we want to focus on these last games."

That focus has helped Selden, a second-year pro out of Kansas, to play the best ball of his career in the past month.

After scoring in double figures 10 times in the first 13 months of his NBA career, Selden has gone for 17 or more points in five of his last six games, averaging 16.3 points per game over that stretch.

His 23 points at Minnesota came in 26 minutes off the bench.