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Grizzlies go streaking, beat Blazers 108-103

MarShon Brooks (you read that right) brought chaos to FedExForum in an unlikely win against an injured foe.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

If all he’s got are 10 days, MarShon Brooks used one of those to the fullest.

The Memphis Grizzlies (21-54) signed him to a 10 day contract, and he showed them why, balling out for 21 points on five threes in a 108-103 win.

It was his first NBA action in nearly four years. He finished his third season in the Chinese Basketball Association with the Jiangsu Dragons after averaging over 35 points per contest before signing with the Grizzlies yesterday

“When you playing in China,” Brooks said, “one thing I can say is that I’ve had the ball, and I’ve shot a lot.”

The 25th pick in the 2011 NBA Draft did shoot it a lot, specifically in the fourth quarter. He exploded for 14 points, 12 of which were the result of four three pointers, single handedly undoing a playoff-bound Portland Trail Blazers (46-29) squad which was being led by an en fuego C.J. McCollum. Brooks did not miss a three point attempt in the game, and shot seven of 12 overall.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

“This is a good feeling” he said after the win. “I’ve been putting in a lot of work. I’ve had a lot of time to think... on what I want to do better when I get back.”

What he did well for his team tonight was score. That was not lost on his new squad, which used a particular recurring term to describe him.

“If you remember he was a bucket [getter] in New Jersey,” Parsons said of his draft classmate. “That’s what he does.”

His new coach, J.B. Bickerstaff, echoed that sentiment.

“If you look back, he’s a bucket getter,” Bickerstaff said. “If you look at what he’s done since he’s been in the Chinese league, that’s what he does. He scores the ball. And you don’t have to run plays for him. The ball finds him in one-on-one situations.”

That was perfectly acceptable for Brooks. He was able to create off isos and off screens, in the half court or in transition. Any time the Grizzlies got him the ball, he seemed to deliver... even if it was outside the team’s normal schemes.

“I was messing up a few of the plays,” Brooks said of his new playbook. “The ball found me, and I just let my talent take over.”

Despite McCollum’s 42 point outburst, the Blazers desperately missed his All-Star backcourt mate Damian Lillard, who was out on paternity leave.

“As people have noted,” Blazers head coach Terry Stotts remarked on Lillard’s inactivity, “on occasion we have played teams without their best player. That happens from time to time, so no excuses.”

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

In the absence of Lillard, McCollum torched the Grizzlies, especially in the first half when he gouged the Grizz for 25 points. It wasn’t the first time the Lehigh product had put up a gaudy number against this Grizz squad; he dropped 36 in a November loss.

“He’s a heck of a player,” Bickerstaff said when asked why the 6’3 guard has troubled the Grizzlies this season. “It wasn’t like his shots were easy shots. It wasn’t like he was getting wide open shots, but he’s one of the most prolific scorers in the league... You give a guy like that the opportunity to take 25 shots, you’re going to be in trouble.”

Outside of McCollum, however, Portland struggled to find much production. This fact coupled with a sterling bench effort from the hometown team, kept Memphis in contention for four quarters. Dillon Brooks (a starter) led the charge with an aggressive 18 points, but Chandler Parsons (15 points) and Wayne Selden (10 points), along with MarShon, contributed important points off the pine.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

At the outset of the game, as the Grizzlies have done recently, Memphis grabbed control. Brooks and Marc Gasol both played aggressively, forcing Portland to react to hard attacks on the basket, crisp passing, and solid three point shooting. But after an early Stotts timeout, the Blazers, specifically McCollum, corrected course and lead 28-20 at the end of the period.

McCollum scored 16 points in the frame on a perfect seven of seven shooting while also registering three assists. The Blazers missed just seven shots in the first, shooting 62.3 percent from the field. It’s no surprise then, that Portland more than doubled Memphis in points in the paint in the period.

Though he didn’t score for another ten minutes, McCollum was able to rack up nine points in two and a half minutes to finish the half with 25 points on a nearly perfect nine of ten shooting from the floor. However, no other Blazer stepped up in McCollum’s absence from the court, a fact you might overlook when glancing at Portland’s 58-53 halftime advantage. In those eight McCollum-less minutes, Parsons scored eight of his 11 first half points, and M. Brooks, who checked in for the first time as a member of the Memphis Grizzlies in the first quarter, scored his first four points for the franchise.

At the break, only three of the ten Grizzlies who played in the first half had shot less than 50 percent from the floor. Accordingly, the team’s field goal percentage jumped 23.6 percentage points to an even 50 percent. Conversely, without McCollum to create on the floor for most of the half, Portland’s field goal percentage fell about 11 percentage points to a still-above-average 56.2 percent.

Mirroring his first quarter effort, Dillon Brooks came back out in the third looking for his shot. With 16 points through three on 11 shots, he fueled the Grizz through the early aughts of the frame. His scoring counterpart, McCollum, was actually pretty poor for his standards. He shot four of ten in the period, looking like he had cooled off at half. But just like that, he reeled off seven straight in the final 62 seconds to give the Blazers an 81-76 lead and himself 34 points with just 12 minutes remaining.

But it was MarShon Brooks’ fourth quarter heroics that upstaged everything.

“I just wanted to get a win,” he said of that fourth quarter fury. “The main thing I was thinking of was that we have got to win this game. Just make the little plays so we can win the game, and that’s what we did tonight.”

The Grizzlies will play again Friday in Salt Lake City against the Utah Jazz at 8 p.m.

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