Blazers, Grizzlies begin postseason in Memphis

( - The Portland Trail Blazers may be the fourth seed in the Western Conference, but they'll start the postseason on the road Sunday night when they visit FedExForum to take on the Memphis Grizzlies.

Portland earned the fourth seed by virtue of winning the Northwest Division, but since Memphis finished with a better regular-season record, the Grizz get the homecourt advantage.

"Everything is different," said Portland's LaMarcus Aldridge of the playoffs. "Last year, Houston had more wins than us, too. I think things just change in the playoffs. I feel like everybody is ready to take on that challenge of going to Memphis, or whatever. So I feel like that don't matter now."

The Blazers did upset the Houston Rockets in last year's playoffs, but Aldridge is right, everything is different.

First, Portland is dinged up heading into this postseason. Aldridge and fellow All-Star Damian Lillard are around, but starting shooting guard Wesley Matthews suffered a torn left Achilles tendon and is out. His replacement, Arron Afflalo, has a strained right shoulder and is expected to miss at least Sunday's Game 1. The next in line, C.J. McCollum, has a left ankle sprain. He missed the season finale and is questionable for Sunday.

Another starter, Nicolas Batum, has a right knee contusion and also missed the final game of the regular season. But, like McCollum, he expects to play in Game 1.

The Blazers have health concerns, but that's not the worst of it. The Grizzlies swept the season series against Portland and is 9-1 in the last 10 meetings. Memphis has won four straight at home and two straight in Portland.

"Last year Houston beat up on us in the regular season 3-1," said Lillard. "We got the best of them in the playoffs, we locked in and got it done."

These two teams were second and third in the Western Conference through most of the regular season, but suffered late-season swoons. The Trail Blazers went 3-6 in April, while the Grizzlies went 5-6 over their final 11.

However, Memphis is built for the postseason. The Grizzlies finished second in the NBA in opponents' scoring and are known for their rugged defense. They feature the league's best big-man combination with Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, but the emergence of Mike Conley made Memphis an apparent contender.

But, like the Blazers, the Grizz are experiencing injury problems as well, especially Conley. He's been dealing with a foot issue and Tony Allen, arguably the best defensive guard in the association, has a hamstring problem. Head coach Dave Joerger indicated there is no timetable for a return.

"When you're missing two starters, it's very difficult to gauge," said Joerger. "You don't know when they'll be able to play. I won't be able to prognosticate if they'll be able to play Sunday or Wednesday. I don't know if either one of them will play."

Both practiced on Friday and believe they'll play on Sunday.