WHERE: Moda Center in Portland, Oregon
WHEN: 8:00 PM CT
HOW TO WATCH: Fox Sports Southeast/ 92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS- Mike Conley (Out, Left Heel), Andrew Harrison (Out, Right Wrist/Left Shoulder), Chandler Parsons (Out, Rest), Tyreke Evans (Out, Personal), MarShon Brooks (Questionable, Left Ankle), Marc Gasol (Questionable, Left Groin)
PORTLAND- Ed Davis (Out, Right Ankle), Moe Harkless (Out, Knee)
MEMPHIS- Mario Chalmers, Dillon Brooks, Jarell Martin, JaMychal Green, Deyonta Davis
PORTLAND- Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Evan Turner, Al-Farouq Aminu, Jusuf Nurkic
Happy Easter to all! The Grizzlies now shift their attention to the Pacific Northwest with a Sunday night matchup against the Portland Trail Blazers. Memphis just recently played this same team in Memphis Wednesday night and took home a strange win. It may be a different story back in Portland and with the return of Dolla Dolla Dame, Damian Lillard, who did not play in that contest.
The team comes into this one after a loss to the Jazz in Utah. It started their three-game road trip in which it is now going to be crunch time for the ping-pong ball odds. The Grizzlies injury report is one of the longest yet. Plus, a guy they signed to a 10-day contract is playing so good that the team has to be cautious with an apparent injury. This is prime tanking from the front office and coaching.
For the Trail Blazers, this one is important to keep their groove going to clinch the 3-seed in the Western Conference. They lost that inexcusable game against the Grizzlies in Memphis and hit a small bump after having rolled off a long winning streak. Now, they will need to get everyone ready to make a playoff push this season.
These two teams have faced each other three other times this year, and the Grizzlies have taken two of the three so far. For whatever strange reason, the Grizzlies have owned the Trail Blazers over the past few seasons. However, this one may not be the best for Grizz Nation. Look for Lillard and McCollum to control the game from the beginning. I do not think we’ll see a repeat of the game a few nights ago.
Here are two things to note going into Sunday night:
Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum and the Portland Rise This Season
The Trail Blazers have been a delight to watch in 2017-2018. Earlier in March, they were ripping off a 13-game winning streak in the battle-tested Western Conference. We are seeing a gear we were not sure this team could reach.
It has mainly been the result of Lillard and McCollum dominating teams. Dame has turned on his game to another level to where he is in the conversation of 1st Team All NBA. He is averaging 26.6 points per game with a 52% effective field goal percentage this season. With Stephen Curry hurt, Lillard took over the “holy crap” off dribble threes from the parking lot. His evolution this season has been amazing to watch and has pulled this team from the bottom half of the playoff picture to a 3-seed.
The luxury that Portland has is that even with a bad game or inactive night from Lillard, there is his backcourt teammate CJ McCollum to pick up the slack. The Grizzlies saw this first-hand when Dame was out with the birth of his child and McCollum dropped 42 points in his absence. On the season, he is averaging 21.7 points per game with an effective field goal percentage of 51.5%. They have one of the most impressive backcourts in the league all season long.
In years past Portland has always been around the 6-8 seed, but finally, they are making real noise in the West. Depending on their first-round matchup (they do not want Oklahoma City), it will be interesting to see how far they can get. NBA fans should be excited about the progression of this team.
Stop Getting Cute. Lose The Game
I really do not like saying the team needs to lose games. It just is not fun to root against any NBA team regardless of the situation. However, this is lottery crunch time. As these young guys are playing hard, tanking now needs to be at the forefront of everyone’s mind. These games matter for the future of the franchise.
Enough has been written on the topic to where I do not have to harp on it again, but the team needs to understand that going in. Bickerstaff will make his adjustments throughout the game to not get too cute in this one.
Luckily, regardless of the “tank”, the Trail Blazers are just a better team than the Grizzlies. Yes, they have had their number as of late, but talent should prevail in this one. Damian Lillard will be enough to put the team over because as we saw last game, CJ McCollum can score at will against the Grizz defense.
Now that the Hawks are tied with the Grizzlies in record every game matters because the team does not want to drift out to the 3-6 range. Only bad things can happen especially with a Cleveland Cavaliers team who has seen “luck” from the ping-pong balls before.
Either way, the Grizzlies should be fine in this one, and they will not receive a call from the NBA about potential tanking efforts.
My prediction for the game is a Portland win. They need this game as they fight to secure their seeding for the playoffs. I’m not thinking it will be close either.
The Grizzlies should not want to win this game, but with no one playing, the roster will take care of itself. I look for Dame Lillard and McCollum to have big games as we just need to appreciate their dominance this season.
Spread: Trail Blazers -. As stated above, the Trail Blazers will overpower and take the Grizzlies down. It will be high scoring, and Memphis cannot keep up with that. I’d take Portland minus the points.
Portland- 115, Memphis- 96