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Trail Blazers-Grizzlies Preview
By JEFF BARTL
(AP) -- The Memphis Grizzlies and Portland Trail Blazers both rely heavily on their starting lineups for scoring more than almost every other NBA team.
Memphis' league-best defense, though, seemingly gets contributions from its entire roster.
The Grizzlies seek another solid defensive effort Friday night against visiting Portland, which looks to regroup from one of its worst offensive performances of the season.
Offense hasn't been a strong point for Memphis (20-9), as its 94.6 points per game rank in the bottom third of the league. It gets only an average of 25.4 points from its bench, which has been outscored by the opposition's reserves 19 times.
That again was the case Wednesday, but starting point guard Mike Conley scored a season-high 23 points in a 93-83 win at Boston. Fellow starters and frontcourt players Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol combined for only 11 points while shooting 4 of 15 from the field.
"It speaks to that we're a good team and we don't just count on those guys when we struggled trying to pound the ball into them," coach Lionel Hollins said. "Zach just didn't have it, but we went up for it and we got a win."
Randolph will look to bounce back from his season-low six-point effort versus Portland, the franchise for which he played his first six seasons. His 21.3 points and 11.2 rebounds per game versus his former team are his best averages against any club.
Memphis' defense, though, likely will play another major role after improving its NBA-best points-against average to 89.8. The Grizzlies also are giving up only 86.8 points per game at home, which doesn't bode well for a Blazers team coming off a 102-79 loss at Toronto on Wednesday.
Portland (16-15), which scored its second-fewest points of the season, dropped to 1-9 when scoring 90 or fewer points and its bench was outscored 59-23.
The Blazers are receiving 17.7 points per game from their reserves - by far the worst in the league. Since 1986, no team has scored fewer points per game off the bench than the 1996-97 Atlanta Hawks (18.0).
Rookie Damian Lillard scored a team-high 18 points but also committed a season-worst seven turnovers.
"Just one of those nights," Lillard said.
He'll look to protect the ball better against Memphis, which holds the NBA's longest active streak by forcing at least 10 turnovers in 132 consecutive games.
Prior to Wednesday, the Grizzlies had dropped three of their previous four and shot 39.1 percent over the final three while averaging 84.3 points. Hollins has stressed more movement on the offensive end, and his team may have a solid chance for an offensive breakout versus a Portland team that ranks near the bottom of the league in defensive field goal percentage (46.6).
"That's one thing that Coach has in his pocket. He always shows the film and he doesn't try to be hard on us, he just lets us know," guard Tony Allen said in regards to the offense.
The Blazers have allowed four of their last six opponents to crack 100 points after holding the previous seven under the century mark.
"Not where we need it to be and not where it's been," coach Terry Stotts said of his team's defense. "Over the past six weeks (it) has been pretty good."
Memphis had lost five of the previous six meetings before its 93-89 home victory in the most recent meeting April 21.
Updated January 3, 2013