Division leaders cross paths in Memphis

(SportsNetwork.com) - A pair of division leaders, one of which is struggling at the moment, will meet Saturday night at FedExForum as the Portland Trail Blazers limp into action against the Memphis Grizzlies.

The Trail Blazers have lost a season high-tying three straight games and will close out a five-game road trip against the Grizzlies. They are 1-3 on the trip and lead the Northwest Division by six games ahead of hard-charging Oklahoma City.

Portland opened the journey with a win over the Toronto Raptors, but have suffered subsequent setbacks to the Washington Wizards, Miami Heat and Orlando Magic. In Friday's 111-104 defeat in Orlando, LaMarcus Aldridge paced the guests with 31 points on 12-of-24 shooting and 10 rebounds.

Aldridge, who surpassed Blazers legend Clyde Drexler (5,339) for the most rebounds in team history, is averaging 24.5 points and 11.5 rebounds in his last 12 games, and owns 36 double-doubles this season. He has shot 50 percent or better from the floor in seven straight games.

Damian Lillard scored 18 points in the loss for the Blazers, who are 16-17 on the road and were outscored, 36-23, in the fourth quarter. Portland shot 47.5 percent and was outrebounded, 50-44.

"They got off to a good start and we were a little sluggish," said Blazers coach Terry Stotts.

The Blazers had won three straight and eight of nine games before the current skid, and will host the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday.

Memphis leads the Southwest Division by only 1 1/2 games ahead of Houston and sits second in the Western Conference standings, three games ahead of fourth- seeded Portland.

The Grizzlies have won three of four and six of their last 10 games, including Friday's 112-101 triumph against the Dallas Mavericks in Big D. Zach Randolph spearheaded the complete effort with 21 points, Marc Gasol added 15 and 10 rebounds, and Jeff Green scored 15 points as well.

Mike Conley provided 14 points in his return from a four-game absence because of an ankle injury for the Grizzlies, who made 53.2 percent of their shots and survived 17 turnovers. Tony Allen scored 13 points in the win.

"That was a good game, a competitive Western Conference game," Grizzlies head coach David Joerger said. "Both teams wanted it and we came out on top."

Memphis looks to push its home winning streak to four games Saturday and is 26-7 at FedExForum. It will visit the New York Knicks on Monday.

Saturday's game between the Grizzlies and Blazers features two tough defenses and potent offenses. Memphis is second in the NBA in opponents' scoring at 95.5 ppg, while Portland is 10th (97.9 ppg). The inside battle should be interesting with Aldridge, Randolph and Gasol posting up in the paint.

The Grizzlies are 3-0 against the Blazers this season and have won eight of the last nine matchups in this series. Memphis is unbeaten in its last three at home versus Portland, which has recorded five straight victories against teams in the West with winning records.