Fighting for playoff position, the Portland Trail Blazers couldn't afford to take the lowly Memphis Grizzlies lightly.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Fighting for playoff position, the Portland Trail Blazers couldn't afford to take the lowly Memphis Grizzlies lightly.
LaMarcus Aldridge had 22 points and eight rebounds and Brandon Roy finished with 20 points and nine assists to lead the Portland to a 103-92 victory over the Grizzlies on Monday night.
"In our (Northwest) division, we're fighting for that sixth or seventh spot," Aldridge said. "Everybody felt like we had to win this one."
The Portland victory, coupled with Houston defeating the New Orleans Hornets 95-85 Monday night, moved the Trail Blazers into the fifth playoff spot in the Western Conference. Portland entered the game in the sixth playoff spot after losing 98-80 in Atlanta on Sunday, their second loss in the previous three games.
"It was a sign of a good team that got embarrassed (Sunday) that came back to try and get redemption," Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said of Portland's play. "And, they did."
Travis Outlaw added 18 points and Joel Przybilla had 13 points and 13 rebounds for the Trail Blazers, who are trying to reach the Western Conference playoffs for the first time since 2003.
In addition to making the playoffs, the Trail Blazers are striving for their first division title since 1999. Denver's 121-96 win over the New Jersey Nets on Monday night, left the Nuggets a half game ahead of Portland in the Northwest.
"We can't take anyone lightly," Przybilla said. "We're making a push for the playoffs, not only make the playoffs, but win our division. That was one of our goals at the beginning of the year, and we're in a fight for it right now."
O.J. Mayo scored 21 points and handed out six assists to lead Memphis, which lost its 13th game in the last 15. Mike Conley had 20 points, and Rudy Gay scored 17 and grabbed 11 rebounds. Hakim Warrick finished with 15 points on 7-of-10 from the floor.
Memphis was still within seven early in the fourth quarter, but Portland methodically extended the lead. Outlaw's 3-pointer, which he followed with a pair of free throws on the next possession, gave the Trail Blazers a 94-77 lead with 5:16 left.
The Trail Blazers eventually built an 18-point advantage. Memphis never led.
"We were trying to get the pace up for us," Conley said. "We were trying to get some easy buckets."
Portland built an early double-digit lead hitting nine of its first 10 shots in the game. When the Trail Blazers finally missed their second shot, it only delayed the scoring as Przybilla grabbed the offensive rebound for a dunk. The sequence dropped Portland's shooting to 83 percent.
Aldridge was the one leading the way, hitting seven of his first eight shots and scoring 15 points in the opening quarter to kickstart the Trail Blazers.
"We had a guy with a hot hand," Portland coach Nate McMillan said. "We didn't force it to him. It was just within the flow of the offense. When we get that type of movement, we have guys who can shoot the ball, and it just happened to be the guy who was receiving it a lot."
Portland would end the night shooting 47 percent, compared to 40 percent for Memphis.
Memphis didn't fold after the early Trail Blazer lead, fighting to cut the Portland advantage to 53-48 late in the second. But Roy scored 14 points in the second quarter and the Trail Blazers led 55-48 at halftime.
Mayo scored 13 points in the half.
Portland was able to maintain its lead through the third period. Memphis cut the margin to three points in the period, but the Trail Blazers carried a 73-66 advantage into the fourth.
After Outlaw's back-to-back scores, Memphis never threatened Portland the rest of the way, keeping the Trail Blazers on the road to the postseason and a possible division title.
"In the West, we're pretty tight," Outlaw said of the race. "One game can drop you down to the eighth seed. We're trying to stay in there."