Blazers head home battered, clinging to hope

MEMPHIS -- Arn Tellem approached his client in a quiet corner of the visitor's locker room Wednesday night at FedEx Forum, not long after the Portland Trail Blazers' postseason was dealt another devastating blow.

"How's your eye?" the high-powered sports agent asked LaMarcus Aldridge.

The Trail Blazers forward smiled and said it would be all right, even though the area around that left eye appeared as though he had taken a beating in a nasty bar fight.

But that's the case. He and his team have been roughed up by the grit-and-grind Memphis Grizzlies and now head back to Portland in a demoralizing 0-2 hole in their Western Conference first-round series after a 97-82 blowout loss in Game 2.

Game 3 is Saturday.

Who hit him exactly? Aldridge couldn't remember. He was caught up in the Grizzlies' tenacious defense, just like the Trail Blazers have been all series, trapped in a tangle of aggressive arms and legs, pushing, prodding, poking, punching -- all of it.

The Grizzlies have hit hard and often, and now the Trail Blazers are teetering, trying to stave off hopelessness after trailing by as many as 29 points in Game 1, 18 in Game 2 and after losing six straight and 11 of their last 12 to the superior Grizzlies squad.

"The positive thing [Wednesday] was, we led some of the game," said Aldridge, who finished with a game-high 24 points on 7-of-20 shooting to go along with a game-high 14 rebounds. "We've just got to build on that."

Yes, the Trail Blazers held a lead in Game 2. Early on, they led by as many as eight points, in fact, after not leading at all during their Game 1 loss. Big whoop.

"Of course you wish there was more, but this is our situation that we're in, so we've got to build from it," Aldridge said.

Another positive: Trail Blazers guard Arron Afflalo said he plans to play Saturday after missing the first two games with a right shoulder sprain.

Even then, Afflalo's return doesn't appear to be enough for the injury-ravaged Trail Blazers, who frankly have looked like a shell of themselves since losing sharpshooting guard Wes Matthews to a ruptured Achilles tendon in March.

Damian Lillard had another no-show performance, finishing with 18 points on 5-of-16 shooting to go along with just one assist. His plus-minus: a team-worst -14.

Grizzlies backup Beno Udrih has scored 30 points in two games while Lillard has 32 -- not the numbers expected from a guard who was the team's playoff hero a season ago and who believes he belongs in the conversation of the NBA's elite.

"They're doing a great job of taking away my options," said Lillard, who is 10-of-37 from the field in the series.

Could Aldridge say anything to Lillard to help him out of this slump?

"Talking to him and getting in his ear isn't going to make anything better," Aldridge said. "I've been there."

Lillard remained upbeat, convinced he and his team can turn it around. He cited the Oklahoma City Thunder being blown out on the road in the first two games of their 2014 Western Conference finals matchup against the San Antonio Spurs, then bouncing back to win the next two games when the series returned to OKC.

"It's the playoffs," he said. "There's going to be games like this."

Entering this postseason, 261 NBA teams have fallen behind 0-2 in a best-of-seven series -- and 94 percent of them have gone on to lose.

Beyond that, the last and only time the Trail Blazers have climbed out of an 0-2 postseason hole was during the 1977 Finals against the Philadelphia 76ers.

That Trail Blazers squad won four straight games after dropping the first pair to claim the franchise's only championship, and Bill Walton won Finals MVP after averaging 18.5 points, 19 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 3.7 blocks in the series.

Though the Trail Blazers of today will say that the Grizzlies' 2-0 series lead indicates only that Memphis protected its home court, the way the Grizzlies did so absolutely sends a message. The Trail Blazers knew going into this series -- as they've known all season -- that they would need to play physical. They haven't yet. Can they at all?

"I don't know," Aldridge said. "We've got to find out. That's our question. That's our test right now. "

A test that they've failed thus far while the Grizzlies have bullied them up and down the court.

Overall, Memphis has held the Trail Blazers to 36 percent shooting (62-of-172) from the field and 30 percent (14-of-46) from 3-point range in the series. And in Game 2, the Grizzlies piled up a franchise playoff record with 29 second-chance points.

But the series could be summed up by a possession late in the third quarter on Wednesday.

The Grizzlies' defense swarmed the Trail Blazers and especially Aldridge, hounding him in the post, where his ex-Blazers teammate Zach Randolph shoved, bumped and elbowed, as did many of his Grizzlies teammates.

Soon the 24-shot clock howled and so did the Memphis crowd.

Aldridge fumed. He almost fired the ball at the referee but stopped and just glared.

"I felt like there was a lot of smacking and grabbing going on down there that maybe they couldn't see," Aldridge said. "It was just a moment of frustration because I felt like they were getting away with some things down there."

The overall matchup against Memphis must feel frustrating for all the Trail Blazers and especially Aldridge, who is doing all he can but is basically a one-man show with Lillard all but absent. The Trail Blazers are hoping a couple games at home, with the Portland fans behind them, can help, and it should -- somewhat, at least.

But given how the series has unfolded thus far, there appears to be a strong chance that the Trail Blazers will be swept off their home court early next week.

"We can't look at the first two games and say, it's impossible," Lillard said. "We've just got to keep believing."

Belief is all the Trail Blazers have left at this point, but even that might be dwindling.