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Trail Blazers-Grizzlies Preview
Posted Dec 12 2006 2:20PM
Zach Randolph returned from his one-game suspension and provided the Portland Trail Blazers with a big boost in their last outing.
He'll now try to help the Blazers win three straight for the first time this season when they visit the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday.
Portland is 3-2 on its season-high six-game road trip, including back-to-back wins. The Blazers beat Toronto 93-83 on Sunday, then got a game-winning layup from Randolph with 2.4 seconds left to defeat Philadelphia 81-79 on Monday night.
``I want the ball at the end,'' Randolph said. ``I want it in the clutch. Coach (Nate McMillan) knows this and he gave me the ball.''
Randolph was suspended for Sunday's game after he made an obscene gesture to Pacers fans following a 108-95 loss to Indiana on Friday. He scored 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds Monday to help Portland (9-14) win consecutive games for only the second time this season.
``It was a real confidence boost because the hardest place to win is on the road,'' Randolph said. ``We just have to take this home and win games at home.''
The Trail Blazers, who are 5-8 on the road after going 6-35 away from home last season, had lost seven of their previous eight games before these consecutive victories. They shot only 5-for-18 from 3-point range Monday, but went 20-of-21 from the free-throw line to get past a 76ers team reeling amid trade rumors surrounding Allen Iverson.
``It's just a big win for us,'' said Randolph, who has 13 double-doubles this season. ``We just have to come out and play hard. All the guys have been playing great and stepping it up.''
Portland hasn't won three straight road games since March 31-April 6, 2004.
The Blazers have lost five of their last seven visits to Memphis and six of their last eight overall to the Grizzlies.
Unlike the last three seasons, though, when Memphis was a playoff team, the Grizzlies have the NBA's worst record this year at 5-16.
Memphis has lost three straight and six of its last seven, and has scored more than 100 points only four times in 21 games. The Grizzlies lost 105-92 at New Jersey on Monday, their seventh road game in the last nine contests.
Mike Miller, third on the team in scoring with 13.6 points per game, picked up three early fouls and didn't score against the Nets.
``They were hitting on all cylinders,'' Grizzlies guard Dahntay Jones said. ``They could have beaten anyone in the league. They had it going tonight and we didn't.''
The Grizzlies are 1-9 against the Western Conference, the lone win coming over Denver on Nov. 28.
Perhaps the only good news for Memphis is that coach Mike Fratello said All-Star forward Pau Gasol could make his season debut this weekend. Gasol, who led the team with 20.4 points and 8.9 rebounds last season, broke his left foot playing for Spain at the World Championships this summer.
However, forward Lawrence Roberts is out 4-to-6 weeks after undergoing surgery to repair the lateral meniscus in his right knee.
``He was emerging as our best rebounder and best post defender and unfortunately had his best game last week with 18 points,'' Fratello said.
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