Don't look now, but it appears as if the Trail Blazers might be coming together at just the right time. Portland's trending in the right direction continued with its easier-than-it-sounds 105-98 victory over Memphis Sunday night at the Moda, Center. It was the third straight victory for the Blazers (48-27), who strengthened their hold on the No. 5 position in the NBA's Western Conference playoff race. Portland leads No. 6 Golden State -- which fell to the New York Knicks at home Sunday night -- by two games. "Not a bad day at the office," said Portland's LaMarcus Aldridge, figuratively whistling as he sauntered to the showers after a 28-point performance. Portland shot .520 from the field, displayed solid defense through most of the game and continued the forceful play it had shown in victories over Atlanta and Chicago to end the team's recent five-game road trip. "We've successively ratcheted it up these last three games," said center Robin Lopez, who contributed nine points, 10 rebounds and three blocked shots. "Hopefully, that will continue going forward, because it's just going to get more intense." The Grizzlies (43-30) had beaten Portland handily in the teams' previous two meetings and entered Sunday night hoping to pick up ground in the tight back end of the West playoff hunt. The Blazers established themselves early, though, using a 16-4 run to start the second quarter to seize a 41-29 lead. They were in front 57-45 at the half and 91-70 early in the fourth quarter. Memphis made a belated run, closing to within 103-98 with 6.9 seconds to go. It was too little, too late. "I like how we're playing," Portland coach Terry Stotts said. "I liked our mindset tonight. I liked our focus from beginning to end. Except for a few loose possessions, we were locked in at both ends of the court." Aldridge was the leader, sinking 10 of 20 shots from the field and 8 of 8 at the foul line. It was his third game after missing the previous seven with a sore back. It's no coincidence the Blazers have rebounded from an eight-losses-in-11-games streak with the return of their All-Star power forward. "L.A. coming back has brought us back to what we do, and how we do it," said guard Mo Williams, who scored 17 points on 7-for-9 shooting for the Blazers.
Blazers moving in right direction as playoffs approach
Portland Tribune | Mar 31