Memphis wins third straight game

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) -- On a night when they were grinding to stay close, the Memphis Grizzlies had enough left to overtake the Portland Trail Blazers.

Stromile Swift tied his season high with 23 points and Mike Miller added 22 in the Grizzlies' 88-82 victory on Friday night.

"That's why this game was so big for us," Miller said of Memphis overcoming a sluggish night. "It was completely out of our style. ... The bottom line is we fought it out. That's why it made this game so impressive."

Swift also had eight rebounds before leaving the game with 5:45 left after banging his left knee. Miller was 4-of-8 from 3-point range and 9-of-14 overall to help Memphis win its third straight and sixth in the last seven. Miller was a key factor in the Grizzlies' 53-34 advantage in bench scoring.

Portland, which led by 12 early, scored only 13 fourth-quarter points. The Trail Blazers were 5-of-19 from the field in the quarter and turned the ball over five times.

"It's disappointing," Portland guard Damon Stoudamire said. "We should have won that game, but we gave it away."

Bonzi Wells added 13 points for Memphis and tied a career high with 14 rebounds against his former team.

Zach Randolph led the Trail Blazers with 26 points and 12 rebounds. Ruben Patterson scored 20 points, and Stoudamire, who had scored at least 30 points in the last two games, added 16 on 5-of-17 shooting.

Stoudamire and backcourt mate Nick Van Exel missed all 13 shots from the field in the second half.

Memphis, which had been flat throughout the night, put together a 10-0 spurt midway through the fourth period to erase the Trail Blazers' lead. A 3-pointer by Brian Cardinal put Memphis ahead, and
Earl Watson made it 80-77 with 3:34 left.

Portland tied the game at 80 but never led again.

Memphis struggled throughout the first three quarters, shooting poorly and failing to get its offense in rhythm. If not for Swift and Miller, and some mishandling by the Trail Blazers, the game would have been out of reach early. Portland ended the night with 22 turnovers and missed 10 free-throw attempts.

"In the third quarter, they missed a lot of shots that they normally make," Portland coach Maurice Cheeks said. "In the fourth quarter, some of those same shots that they were missing went in the basket."

Through three quarters, the Grizzlies, outside of Swift and Miller, were a combined 9-of-44 from the field as the Trail Blazers took a 69-64 lead into the final period.

"It was just a nasty game on both ends," said Shane Battier, who hit only one of his eight shots on the night. "It was very
physical. Everyone was on the officials. It seemed to be sort of ornery.

"In the fourth quarter, we were able to pick it up and play great defense the last six minutes," he said.

The reserves were the ones on the floor for that rally, led by Cardinal, who scored seven of his nine points in the period.

"Our defense turned around after the first quarter, after we gave up 32 points," Memphis coach Mike Fratello said. "Our first group struggled. The guys who came off the bench, it was their turn."

In the opening stages, the Trail Blazers controlled every facet. They connected on 3- pointers early, beat Memphis defenders along the baseline to the basket and outran the Grizzlies down the floor for fast-break points. If that wasn't enough, Portland held a 10-rebound advantage and a 12-point lead during the first quarter.

Memphis answered with a 14-2 run to open the second quarter as Swift had 13 of his 19 first-half points in the period. But Randolph's 19-foot fadeaway at the buzzer gave Portland a 51-49 lead at intermission.

Game notes
Fratello said before the game that he is not expecting leading scorer Pau Gasol and James Posey, both on the injured list, to return until after the All-Star break. ... Memphis center Jake Tsakalidis missed his third game because of a neck sprain. ...
Portland guard Derek Anderson saw his first action after missing seven games because of sinus and dental problems, including a root canal. ... Stoudamire hit all three of his free throws to extend his streak to 51. ... Trail Blazers forward Theo Ratliff had eight blocks, one short of his career high. ... Van Exel's 11 assists were a season high.