WHERE: Moda Center in Portland, Oregon
WHEN: 9:00 PM CT
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: FOX Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS- Wayne Selden Jr. (Out, quad), JaMychal Green (Out, ankle/foot), Mario Chalmers (Probable, knee), Marc Gasol (Probable, ankle), Ben McLemore and Ivan Rabb (Inactive- assigned to Memphis Hustle)
PORTLAND- Al-Farouq Aminu (Out, ankle), Wade Baldwin IV (Out, thumb), Meyers Leonard (Out, ankle), CJ Wilcox (Out, knee)
MEMPHIS- Mike Conley, Dillon Brooks, James Ennis III, Jarell Martin, Marc Gasol
PORTLAND- Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, Maurice Harkless, Noah Vonleh, Jusuf Nurkic
The Memphis Grizzlies are in Oregon to take on the Portland Trail Blazers two days after a weekend stay in Los Angeles. They took on the Clippers and Lakers in a Saturday/Sunday back to back, and in typical Grizzlies fashion they won the game many thought they would lose (Clippers) and lost the game many thought they would win (Lakers). The more things change, the more they stay the same.
That bodes well for tonight, then, as Memphis takes on a Portland team that is playing well early in the season despite some key injuries. There are reasons for this- Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum remain one of the top scoring backcourts in the entire NBA, while Jusuf Nurkic has started his season off on an extremely strong note (16 points and almost 8 rebounds per game). This team will go as far as those three take them most nights.
What must Memphis do to pull out a win in Portland?
Marc Negates Nurkic
Never forget that these two have a history. Nurkic was pretty aggressive/disrespectful to Marc in the past, openly scoffing at and mocking him when they have played against one another. And Gasol doesn’t take too kindly to that kind of thing, and Marc doesn’t forget. Chances are we may have some Wendigo, aggressive-Marc sightings tonight, and that is a good thing. While Mike Conley is not on the injury report, he clearly is not quite himself and is struggling early this season. It is unrealistic to expect Mike to win his one on one matchup with the talented Damian Lillard at this point.
So, Marc must pick up the slack and not just beat Nurkic, but darn near dominate him. Here’s to hoping he is up to the task.
Be a Better Collective
While Marc must lead, he cannot do it alone. One of the reasons the Grizzlies have a winning record through ten games this season despite so many injuries is the fact that others have stepped up. Chandler Parsons looks to be a good basketball player again, Tyreke Evans is a Sixth Man of the Year candidate, and James Ennis III has been serviceable as a starting wing on this team. The collective has worked well, and the bench especially has had a large hand in not just keeping leads, but getting/building them.
Portland has similar players. Outside of their “Big Three” of Lillard/McCollum/Nurkic, they have six players averaging over five points a game. Two of them (Aminu and Leonard) are out for tonight’s contest, but guys like Evan Turner, Pat Connaughton, Mo Harkless, and Ed Davis all stand to see their minutes and roles grow with those two out.
It cannot be all on Marc and Mike. The Chandlers and Tyrekes of the world have to outperform the Evans and Mos for Memphis to win.
The Grizzlies will be playing their third game in four nights tonight when they take the floor in Portland, and after this game they get a nice break before they play at Houston on Saturday night. Memphis may not have their legs under them and may have their eyes looking ahead to a few days off. If that is the case, this is going to be a long night for the Grizzlies.
This shouldn’t be the case, though. Chandler Parsons will play in this game and provide some needed depth for Memphis, and the combination of him, Tyreke Evans, and Mario Chalmers should help to keep this thing close when Marc and Mike are not involved/on the court. It will be on the two main Grizzlies to find a way to get Memphis a win in that “winning time” that is the fourth quarter.
Conley (broken face) and Gasol (Nurkic) both have reasons for disliking Portland. That emotion will carry the day and the Grizzlies get a breather after a big win.
Memphis 105, Portland 101