WHERE: Moda Center in Portland, Oregon
WHEN: 9:00 PM CT
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Fox Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS: Joakim Noah (Questionable, knee), Mike Conley (Doubtful, ankle), Kyle Anderson (Out, shoulder), Jaren Jackson Jr. (Out, quad), Avery Bradley (Out, shin), Dillon Brooks (Out, toe), C.J. Miles (Out, foot), Jonas Valanciunas (Out, ankle)
PORTLAND: Jusuf Nurkic (Out, leg), C.J. McCollum (Out, knee)
PROBABLE STARTING LINEUPS:
MEMPHIS: Delon Wright, Tyler Dorsey, Justin Holiday, Bruno Caboclo, Ivan Rabb
PORTLAND: Damian Lillard, Rodney Hood, Maurice Harkless, Al-Farouq Aminu, Enes Kanter
Welcome to the final week of the season for the Memphis Grizzlies.
Or perhaps a better name for it is the season finale of Survivor: Grizzlies Edition.
Memphis enters tonight’s contest with the Portland Trail Blazers likely without eight - yes, you read that right, eight - rotation players. Here’s what that means by the numbers. The Grizzlies will be missing players that have done the following this season according to basketball-reference.com -
- Played 7,424 total minutes played for Memphis.
- Scored 3,780 points for the Grizzlies.
- Taken 2,892 shots.
The list could go on and on, but the point is clear. They are missing key pieces - both old (Mike Conley, who probably shouldn’t play again this season given the Valanciunas injury) and new (Jonas, who has been a revelation in a larger role for the Grizzlies). If you had told Memphis fans that with a week to go in the season the Grizzlies would be starting the group listed above in the probable starting lineups section, they would have laughed at you.
This season has been insane.
With the race to convey potentially over on a count of lack of good NBA players, Memphis can merely do the best they can as they play out the slate. Tonight’s opponent has had their own share of injury misfortune, and while the sheer number of players out isn’t close to Memphis, Portland is hurting without two of their top three players as they play to get to the three seed in the Western Conference Playoffs, which begin next weekend.
Here’s what to look for tonight.
Who answers the knock of opportunity?
You’re probably thinking to yourself - “why in the hell should I watch this game?” First off, fair thought. Secondly, though, a fascinating storyline this last week of the campaign is all the fringe players on the edge of the Grizzlies roster likely getting opportunity to show how they’ve improved this season...or if they haven’t at all. Ivan Rabb likely will get starter’s minutes the rest of the season and can show he is capable of defending bigs like Enes Kanter tonight, which would be a big boost to the confidence of many that he can hang with good scoring NBA bigs.
Delon Wright is auditioning to be a starter himself moving forward. Justin Holiday is playing for another pay day, be it in Memphis or elsewhere. Tyler Dorsey and Bruno Caboclo are both striving to show their NBA roster worth in general. And those are just the starters...Dusty Hannahs as the Memphis Hustle call-up, two way players Julian Washburn and Yuta Watanabe, Jevon Carter...they’re all fighting for their NBA careers.
Oh, and Chandler Parsons as well.
It’s as random a bunch of Grizzlies as you will ever meet. But their fight the next week could be fun to watch as many fans turn their eyes toward what could be a wild off-season.
Memphis has no business winning this game. Which means they will probably keep it closer than we all anticipate. Portland is getting used to life without Jusuf Nurkic still, and without McCollum the Trail Blazers are more dependent on Rodney Hood and Evan Turner for offensive production than they probably care to be.
But Portland is 29-9 at home. And they have the very best player on the floor in Damian Lillard. While you should expect a good fight from Memphis as they try to finish the season strong, at some point depth of talent will win the day.
Portland 119, Memphis 107