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VOL. 130 | NO. 77 | Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Grizzlies-Blazers Series Just Getting Started

By Don Wade

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Portland Trail Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge (12) shoots against Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol (33), in the first half of Game 1 of an NBA basketball Western Conference playoff series Sunday, April 19, 2015, in Memphis, Tenn.

(AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Had this been an NFL Playoff game, Portland coach Terry Stotts would have summed up the just-ended season and perhaps said an optimistic word about next year.

Portland players would have expressed regrets and then finalized their reservations for Hawaii, Italy, Australia or wherever that wasn’t Memphis or Portland.

Instead, after the Grizzlies defeated the Trail Blazers 100-86 Sunday night at FedExForum in a game the Grizzlies led by as many as 29 points, Stotts said this: “We lost the game. No matter how you lose the first game, you’ve got to come back and play well the second game. That’s why it’s a series.”

While Grizzlies reserve guard Beno Udrih stole the show with his 20 points, seven assists and seven rebounds in Game 1, and Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph dominated in the post with double-doubles, the Grizzlies’ defense contributed heavily to Portland shooting just 33.7 percent from the floor.

All-Stars LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard hoisted a combined 55 shots, but neither scored with efficiency. Aldridge went 13-for-34 and finished with 32 points and Lillard was 5-for-21 with 14 points. Portland never held a lead in Game 1, which makes the Grizzlies’ 4-0 regular-season sweep of the Blazers seem more indicative of what may happen in this best-of-seven, first-round Western Conference series.

“At this point, they know our offense well,” Lillard said. “That’s playoff basketball. Nothing is going to be easy. I’m not going to get too many great looks, especially with me and (LaMarcus Aldridge) being such a huge part of our offense. I just have to make shots. I have to use screens better and go watch film and try to figure out what I can do to help myself.”

Aldridge picked up a technical foul late in the first quarter of Game 1. The officials did not call the game closely, allowing much pushing and shoving.

“Definitely, they let us play,” Randolph said. “That’s what we wanted to do. Just let us play physical, clean. That’s what we did.”

Aldridge knows to expect more of the same.

“It’s going to physical. It’s going to be a struggle individually,” Aldridge said referring to Randolph. “That’s just how he plays. I thought I had a bunch of shots I should have made and I felt like I was too eager early. It kind of put me in a bad rhythm early.”

While point guard Mike Conley (sore foot) and swingman Tony Allen (strained hamstring) returned to action, the Blazers were without guard Arron Afflalo (shoulder sprain). Stotts seemed hopeful that Afflalo, who averaged 13.3 points per game this season and made 40 percent of his threes since being acquired from the Denver Nuggets in February, would be able to play in Game 2 Wednesday night at FedExForum.

Conley scored 16 points in Game 1 and, best of all, only played 24 minutes because Udrih was on his game. Allen was up to his usual defensive tricks, making three steals and blocking one shot.

“They gave us 100 percent of what they had, and that’s all you can ask for,” Gasol said of Allen and Conley. “You cannot ask for guys to make shots, you cannot ask guys to make the right play every time, but you can ask for that effort.

“I’m happy with what they brought to the table. I’m going to ask the same thing the next game,” Gasol said. “Whatever they have, bring it. Get ready, because it’s going to be a battle again. The whole series is going to be like that.”

After Wednesday night’s game here, the series shifts to Portland for Game 3 on Saturday night and Game 4 on Monday night. If a Game 5 is necessary, it will be played at FedExForum on Wednesday, April 29.

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