In Wednesday night’s win over the Raptors, the Grizzlies were carried on the back of their lone All-Star as Marc Gasol posted a career-best 42 points. They were in need of the same saving on Friday. Unfortunately, a 32-point performance from Gasol wasn’t enough to overcome a 33-point performance of non-All-Star Damian Lillard and a 23-point outburst from Allen Crabbe off the bench, as the Grizzlies once again dug themselves into too deep a first-half hole to climb out of in the second half.
The first quarter started with Memphis’ offense suffering from a case of dysentery out on the Oregon Trail (joke credit to Kevin Lipe), and the Grizzlies once again turned to Big Spain for a boost. In fact, through the first nine-plus minutes of the game, Gasol either scored or assisted on every one of the Grizzlies’ buckets.
2:42 -- Grizzlies first basket not scored or assisted by Gasol.— Chris Herrington (@HerringtonNBA) January 28, 2017
While the offense sputtered, the Grizzlies weren’t aided by their defense, which had dysentery and cholera and whose caulked wagon sank while trying to float across the river. Portland’s offense generated open looks, and Lillard and McCollum were only too happy to take advantage. At the end of the first half, the Blazers’ back court was a combined 8 of 14 with 25 points.
Memphis entered the second quarter down just four, but that deficit quickly climbed, first to 13, then to 18. When the Grizzlies weren’t giving up open shots, they committed dumb fouls, including two fouls while the Blazers were shooting threes.
And yet, in spite of all that, the Grizzlies managed to keep themselves in the game. When Portland’s offense went cold, Memphis finally capitalized on their opponent’s 27th ranked defense and strung together points to pull within six at halftime, with Marc Gasol leading the way with 19.
The third quarter was a back-and-forth affair. Each time the Grizzlies closed the deficit to a single possession, Portland responded. Allen Crabbe proved to be particularly pesky, hitting two key threes in the third after Memphis had pulled within two. Still, the Grizzlies answered yet again, and thanks to 9 Gasol third quarter points, they entered the fourth and final frame down only one.
Memphis opened the fourth on a 4-0 run to take a three-point lead, and from that point it was touch-and-go once again. That is, until the end of the game. With the Grizzlies down 97-96, things got wild.
After a Gasol turnover, Damian Lillard finished back-to-back possessions with tough threes. After Mike Conley answered with a three of his own, Lillard hit his third three to stretch the Portland lead to 5. A Z-Bo rebound and finish off a Conley miss cut it back to three.
The Grizzlies subsequently trimmed the deficit to one again, but a McCollum bucket and an awful missed foul call by the officials resulted in the Blazers with possession and a three-point lead. A TA steal and an impressive rebound on a missed free throw by Gasol weren’t enough, as Conley’s three fell short, taking the Grizzlies’ comeback hopes with it.
It was a disappointing finish for the Grizzlies, and the missed calls by Tony Brothers and company won’t make it any easier to swallow. But Memphis will have to stop relying on comeback efforts in these games. They’ll face a tough Utah team tomorrow night, and they can’t afford to dig themselves into an early hole against the Jazz.
Still, it’s early in the road trip, and there’s still time for them to get it together. Let’s just hope tonight’s game doesn’t turn into a recurring theme.