January 17, 2015

Not much was expected of the Portland Trail Blazers after losing four starters from last year's playoff team, but they've been able to rebuild on the fly.

Damian Lillard led the way in the first meeting with Memphis and C.J. McCollum shined in the second before the Grizzlies finally managed to slow them in the third.

Now defensive-minded Memphis looks to replicate that performance Monday night when it tries to avoid its first back-to-back losses since late December and win for the ninth consecutive time - including the postseason - at home against the Blazers.

Portland won 51 games and the Northwest Division before a five-game loss to Memphis in the first round of the playoffs, and it struggled early on in 2015-16 after losing LaMarcus Aldridge, Wesley Matthews, Robin Lopez and Nicolas Batum over the summer.

The Blazers, though, seem to have found an identity of late behind one of the NBA's more dynamic backcourts. Lillard had 21 points and 10 assists for a career-high third straight double-double and McCollum scored 16 in Saturday's 96-79 win at Houston.

McCollum has averaged 22.7 points and hit 23 of 53 from 3-point range in the last nine of a 10-3 stretch that has the club one game out of the Western Conference's final playoff spot.

"We've been saying all year it's hard to be consistent," Lillard said after Portland led by as many as 32 points. "That's (what) we've been fighting. We showed signs by coming out and getting after it for a complete game."

Portland can take another step forward with a season-high third straight road win and by ending its eight-game road skid in this series.

Lillard had 27 points and made seven 3-pointers in a 115-96 home win over the Grizzlies on Nov. 5 before McCollum scored 26 in a 101-100 road loss Nov. 13. Memphis, however, held them to a combined 33 on 10-of-32 shooting in a 91-78 road win Jan. 4.

The Grizzlies (30-21) will try to avoid their first back-to-back losses since Dec. 23-26 after losing at home for only the second time in their last 14 games.

Marc Gasol had 22 points, Zach Randolph scored 20 with 14 rebounds and Matt Barnes added 17 and 11 on Saturday when the team's five-game winning streak was snapped in a 114-110 overtime loss to Dallas.

Coach Dave Joerger admitted Gasol has been slowed while dealing with a sore left knee. He had 31 points in the November home meeting but only scored seven last month.

"I have some issues but you have to push through it," Gasol said.

Randolph, who has two double-doubles in his last three games, had 26 points and 18 rebounds against his former team in January after tipping in the winning basket with less than a second left in the previous matchup in Memphis.

The Blazers (25-27) have settled in defensively, limiting opponents to 94.2 points per game in their last six after giving up an average of 102.8 heading into that stretch. They could be tested by a Memphis team that has put up 104.8 over its past 11.

The Grizzlies have won 15 of the past 18 meetings overall, including playoffs.

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