WHERE: FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee
WHEN: 7:00 PM CT
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: FOX Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS- Andrew Harrison (Questionable, right wrist/left shoulder), Ivan Rabb (Doubtful, heel), Mike Conley (Out, heel)
PORTLAND- Maurice Harkless (Out, knee)
PROBABLE STARTING LINEUPS-
MEMPHIS- Tyreke Evans, Dillon Brooks, Jarell Martin, JaMychal Green, Marc Gasol
PORTLAND- Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, Maurice Harkless, Al-Farouq Aminu, Jusuf Nurkic
Memphis went and stole one in Minnesota on Monday night. They flat out beat a playoff team in the Timberwolves and are on track to play another tonight.
The Portland Trail Blazers come to town playing almost the opposite type of ball than the Timberwolves, however. While Minnesota was struggling, falling to 6-8 post-All-Star break after Monday’s match-up, Portland has been thriving. The Trail Blazers are on a 13-2 stretch since the All-Star game into the #3 seed in the Western Conference.
As has been said before and will be said again this season, Memphis’ wins won’t make any important impact on their own place in the standings. Lottery position is one thing, but players and coaches don’t care for those things. But Portland is still playing for something. They are currently the 3-seed, but they’re no lock. 4 games separate the 3-seed Blazers and the 8-seed T-Wolves.
(And hey, being the 3-seed means the Trail Blazers will likely have to play the 2-seed Warriors in the second round, do they want that???)
But while Portland has lost just two games since the break, Memphis has won just two games, both coming fairly recently. This is the unstoppable force versus the very movable object.
And the Grizzlies have been quite movable this season. A team that was once predicated on defense is in the bottom-third of the league in defensive rating, and in the bottom-three in offensive rating.
However, the Trail Blazers have actually really been that unstoppable force. As of Tuesday night, they’ve had a net rating of 10.1 in that post-break stretch I mentioned. Their only two losses were by a combined 9 points to Houston and Boston. And instead of Dame and CJ trying to out-score every team in their path, Portland plays legit defense. After spending the last two seasons in the bottom-third in defensive rating, they’ve sky rocketed to 7th thanks to Jusuf Nurkic’s rim protection.
Storyline to Watch:
How does Memphis rely on their young talent?
Dillon Brooks and Wayne Selden Jr. have been playing quite well recently. Deyonta Davis has become an actual rotational player. Both Marquis Teague and MarShon Brooks were recently signed to ten-day contracts and haven’t contributed yet.
Beyond that, this team is starting to look better when the youngins perform. They bring an energy and breath of fresh air that the team (and franchise) sorely need.
Will this be another game where Gasol and Evans combine for 35+ shots or will it be more of an egalitarian approach? The Grizzlies are 5-22 when Gasol plays and shoots 16+ field goals, 13-30 when he plays and shoots 15 or less. For Evans, those records are 8-18 vs 11-14. Marginally better!
If Selden, Brooks (x2), Jarell Martin, and Andrew Harrison (if he plays) can get shots within the flow of the offense, Memphis will have a chance to pull this one out.
I’ve gone on the record as saying there’s no reason to predict a Memphis win the rest of the season. So I will not do that in this game.
Just because I trust them to win this game, doesn’t mean I trust them to go further than the second round. I will not ever trust Portland, so don’t get it twisted. But Portland it is for tonight.
Portland Trail Blazers 109, Memphis Grizzlies 96