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Division leaders meet, Grizzlies draw first blood

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — It was very nearly a perfect night for Memphis Grizzlies backup point guard Beno Udrih.

Starting his second straight game in place of injured Mike Conley, Udrih scored 17 points, including the key bucket with 8.7 seconds left to help Memphis beat the Portland Trail Blazers 102-98 on Saturday night in a battle of division-leading Western Conference teams at FedExForum.

Udrih finished 7 of 7 from the field, and his 22-footer came after guard Damian Lillard had pulled the Trail Blazers within three at 99-96 by making a 3-pointer with 27.3 seconds left.

“When I came off the (Marc Gasol) screen, I looked on the clock and it was low and I didn’t want to put somebody else in the position to shoot a desperate shot,” said Udrih, who added seven rebounds and three assists.

“So I got to my spot again and I was feeling it pretty much the whole game.”

Forward Zach Randolph had 20 points and 15 rebounds and guard Courtney Lee and reserve forward Jeff Green added 17 points apiece for Memphis (29-11), which saw Portland rally from a 20-point hole in the third quarter behind Lillard (23 points, six assists), guard Wesley Matthews (25 points) and forward LaMarcus Aldridge (32 points, nine rebounds).

After trailing 62-42 early in the third quarter, Portland finished the quarter with a 17-8 run capped by a Matthews 3-pointer just before the buzzer that cut Memphis’ lead to 78-70 after three.

“I was really pleased with our effort in the second half,” Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. “We need to have that kind of effort every night. They made a couple of big shots in the fourth quarter. Beno made two jumpers that obviously made a difference. We put ourselves in position to win a game on the road against a good team and just feel a little shot in the second half.”

Lillard made it 95-93 on a 3-pointer with 1:06 left in the game, but Udrih, whose only miss came at the free-throw line — he went 3 of 4, made a jumper with 38.4 seconds left to push the lead back to four.

Randolph made two free throws to extend Memphis’ lead to 99-93 before Lillard followed with another 3-pointer to give Portland life.

“I thought the fourth quarter was as close to playoff intensity as you can get,” Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger said.

“(Udrih) was tremendous. The end play was an option play for three guys and it was his read to make. The guy (Lillard) got a steal last time down and it kind of made you feel like, ‘If he reaches again, I’m going to be able to go in there and get a pull-up.’ He made the right read and took a good shot.”

The Grizzlies, who won their fourth straight game, were without Conley for the second straight game, but shot 50.6 percent from the field as Portland dropped a third straight game for the first time this season. The Trail Blazers were coming off consecutive losses to the Los Angeles Clippers (on Wednesday) and the San Antonio Spurs (on Friday).

“I mean obviously this is a less than ideal situation,” said Matthews, who became Portland’s franchise leader in made 3-pointers Saturday with 778, surpassing Terry Porter’s 773.

NOTES: Grizzlies G Mike Conley (right ankle sprain) missed his second straight game Saturday. Conley had averaged 19 points, 5.8 assists and 4.8 rebounds in 31.9 minutes in his last 11 games. … Portland, coming off a 110-96 road loss at San Antonio on Friday, entered Saturday’s game an NBA-best 7-1 in the second game of back-to-back sequences. The Grizzlies are now 5-3 in the second game of back-to-backs. … With 778 career 3-pointers, Trail Blazers G Wesley Matthews broke Terry Porter’s franchise record. Matthews was 7 of 14 on 3-pointers Saturday night.

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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