Grizzlies ready for postseason and Trail Blazers
The Memphis Grizzlies, who spent much of the season as the Western Conference's No. 2 seed, enter the postseason in the fifth spot after a post-All-Star finish that has some wondering exactly where they are heading into playoffs.
All-Star center Marc Gasol says it all depends on which Memphis game someone saw last.
''I'm happy how the team is and even though we've had a lot of ups and downs and adversity and things that didn't go our way, it's time to put all the negative stuff aside,'' Gasol said. ''Try to be positive and get ready for a really tough playoff series.''
The Trail Blazers come into this series having lost four straight. Game 1 is Sunday night at Memphis.
The Grizzlies swept Portland in the regular season.
Memphis heads into its opening playoff series with Portland having won three of its last five. Coach Dave Joerger says the Grizzlies have played fairly hard against some tough teams with a roster limited by injuries.
Whether the Grizzlies play better now that it's playoff time remains to be seen.
''The thing about flipping switches is some people can do it, some people cannot,'' Joerger said. ''But generally when you try to do it and do not have a consistency behind you, then it doesn't last very long. It can be short-lived.''
The Grizzlies are in the playoffs for a franchise-record fifth straight year, and they finally face a new opponent in the Trail Blazers after frequent series with the Clippers, Thunder and Spurs. They swept Portland during the season and finished with a better record (55-27), so Portland (51-31) starts on the road despite earning the fourth seed by winning the Northwest Division title.
The teams last met March 21 when the Grizzlies won 97-86 in Memphis, and two of the games were decided by six or fewer points. LaMarcus Aldridge, the team's leading scorer and rebounder, and starter Nicolas Batum didn't play in the second half of that last game because of injuries.
Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard says the Grizzlies are just a grinding team, which can give Portland problems.
''Last year, Houston beat up on us during the regular season, 3-1,'' Lillard said. ''We got the best of them in the playoffs. We locked in and got it done. We got the best of San Antonio in the regular season. In the playoffs, we know what happened. Like I said, it's a completely different level of intensity and focus. Everything changes.''
Here are some things to know about this series before Game 1:
PORTLAND'S SKID: The Trail Blazers lost five of six to end the regular season, putting a damper on a season where they won more than 50 games for a second straight year and their first division title since 1998-99. Lillard says they need to adjust but isn't too worried after Portland lost the regular-season finale a year ago and reached the second round.
GRIT & GRIND: Portland ranks ninth in the NBA averaging 102.8 points. Only Utah allowed fewer points than Memphis, which gave up 95.1 per game. The Grizzlies held seven of their last eight opponents to 92 points or less.
LOOKING TO LAMARCUS: The Blazers are no doubt depending on Aldridge for playoff success. The All-Star averaged 23.4 points and 10.2 rebounds this season. He has spent his entire career with the Blazers, who traded for him after the Chicago Bulls took him with the second overall pick in the 2006 draft. Aldridge ranks second on the Blazers' all-time scoring list and first in rebounds but becomes an unrestricted free agent in the offseason. He says he wants to stay, and the Blazers have made it clear they want to keep him. But rumors are swirling about possible destinations for him.
SHOOTING 3s: How well the Grizzlies shoot from beyond the arc is a big key in their wins, needing the outside shooting to prevent teams from crowding the paint against Gasol and Zach Randolph. Memphis went 22-1 when connecting on as many or more 3s than its opponents. The Trail Blazers don't hesitate themselves, with the league's eighth-best 3-point shooters.
MASH UNIT: Both teams seem to be healing up a bit. Grizzlies guard Mike Conley is questionable with a sprained right foot, and Allen also plans to play. Joerger calls both game-time decisions. Conley says he can barely walk when he wakes up. Batum (bruised right knee) and guard CJ McCollum (sprained left ankle) also plan to play Game 1.
AP Sports Writer Anne M. Peterson in Portland, Oregon, and AP freelance writer Clay Bailey in Memphis, Tennessee, contributed to this report.