The Memphis Grizzlies found a distinct advantage in their Game 1 win against the Portland Trail Blazers. Damian Lillard's defense, or lack thereof, gave the Grizzlies an advantage and they made sure to capitalize on it.
Damian Lillard is not a good defensive player and this was on full display Sunday night. He was getting beaten off the dribble and just getting lost in the pick-and-roll. It's actually incredible to me that the Trail Blazers were able to stay in the top 10 in defensive efficiency during the season with Lillard in their lineup. It's a testament to how good the rest of the Blazers are.
Let's start with how the Grizzlies took advantage of him off the dribble.
Injured Mike Conley comes streaking down the court towards all five Blazers. Instead of stopping him in transition Lillard backs up towards the basket. This wasn't all Lillard's fault as LaMarcus Aldridge had his back turned on one of the fastest guards in the league and Nicolas Batum pitched a tent on the right wing and didn't feel like moving. As soon as Lillard figured out he may need to be near Conley it was too late. He found a lane and exploded to the basket, while the Blazers guard lazily tried to get in front of him. Aldridge didn't cut off the lane and tried to block the shot, but fouled Conley instead. The play ended in an and-one and some awesome flexing from Tony Allen and Conley.
Mike Conley is clearly hurt yet he can beat Lillard off the dribble in transition. The Grizzlies took advantage of this some in Game 1 and if Mike Conley was healthy they would have been able to do more. Lillard's on ball defense is horrendous. He wasn't the one that allowed Beno Udrih to get hot, but he was essential to Udrih staying red hot. The Grizzlies have an advantage with Udrih playing against either Blazers point guard and Coach Dave Joerger did a great job of getting the most out of the matchup.
Just the threat of the pick and roll threw Damian Lillard out of whack and Conley was able to beat him off the dribble again.
Here the Grizzlies are going to start their set with a Gasol and Conley pick and roll. Lillard stays flat on his feet and allows Conley to completely blow past him. He didn't try and step in front of him or even move his feet to stay in front of him. Then he tries to keep his elbow on Conley's hip, but it's way too late for that — he's already gotten into the middle of the defense. The injured point guard makes a good move on Kaman and gets the and-one and another flex to the crowd.
The Trail Blazers defense has its guards try to fight through screens, something that Lillard isn't great at.
He was dying on screens on and off the ball all game long. Here is no different. As soon as Mike Conley explodes away from him Lillard was done. Courtney Lee bumps him, ZBo hip checks him and he evades a Gasol screen, but it didn't matter Conley is already in the paint. He finishes the play with a nice scoop shot on Robin Lopez. This is one of many occasions where Lillard would lose a defender going around a screen.
The Playoffs are about adjusting when a matchup problem pops up so I expect Blazers coach Terry Stotts to start adjusting now. The Blazers coach tried to hide Lillard on Vince Carter at times, but it was a fruitless endeavor. I expect this to be a big part of his gameplan going forward and if it is the Grizzlies have to make them pay. Playing Carter or will not make them pay. He's too slow to get open all the time and his jumper is irreparably broken. If Stotts does hide Lillard the Grizzlies should counter with Jordan Adams or by making him run around with Courtney Lee.
This isn't the biggest advantage the Grizzlies have, but it is an advantage the Grizzlies can maximize to make sure this is a short series.