WHEN: 7:00 PM CT
WHERE: FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Fox Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
PORTLAND- Mario Hezonja (Questionable, ankle), Nassir Little (Questionable, ankle), Rodney Hood (Out, achilles), Zach Collins (Out, shoulder), Jusuf Nurkic (Out, leg)
MEMPHIS- Grayson Allen (Out, hip), Justise Winslow (Out, back)
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS:
PORTLAND- Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Trevor Ariza, Carmelo Anthony, Hassan Whiteside
MEMPHIS- Ja Morant, Dillon Brooks, Kyle Anderson, Jaren Jackson Jr., Jonas Valanciunas
The Grizzlies are set to host the red hot Portland Trail Blazers in their final game before the All-Star Break this upcoming weekend. The Grizzlies hold a slim 3 game lead over the Trail Blazers for the 8th seed in the Western Conference standings. With tonight's game being the first in the season series, the winner will take a big step towards clinching a potential tie-breaker assuming both these teams are still fighting for the playoffs in a couple of months.
After disappointing for most of the season, the Trail Blazers have made a run for the playoffs thanks in large part to Damian Lillard’s MVP type performance over the past few weeks. Even after the trade deadline, the Grizzlies are still good enough to hold off the Blazers and make a surprise appearance in the postseason but it won’t come easy.
What will it take for the Grizzlies to come away with a big time win heading into All-Star Weekend? Let’s take a look.
Contain the “other” guys
Damian Lillard is going to put up monster numbers tonight. Nobody has been able to slow him down over the last few weeks. Going into last nights matchup against the New Orleans Pelicans, Lillard averaged 41.5 points, 9.4 assists and 5.7 rebounds over the last 10 games. He’s been on another level. The key for the Grizzlies is to not allow the other Blazers to beat you. Known Grizzly killer CJ McCollum is always a threat to go off, so the Grizzlies will need to be sure to lock him up. Carmelo Anthony has revived his career in Portland. Melo, along with McCollum, Ariza, Whiteside and Gary Trent Jr. form a nice supporting cast alongside Lillard. If the Grizzlies can slow those guys down, they should be able to overcome what will presumably be another great performance from Lillard.
Attack the paint
With Lillard likely to go supernova, the Grizzlies will need to be sure to attack the paint and get easy baskets. With the Grizzlies shooting just 23.8% from beyond the arc over their past 5 games, a 3-point shootout with the Trail Blazers would likely end horribly. Luckily for the Grizzlies, the Trail Blazers lack depth down low with both Hassan Whiteside and Caleb Swanigan being the lone true “big men” for the Blazers. Neither of them are known for their defensive prowess so the Grizzlies should be able to take full advantage. Jonas Valanciunas and Jaren Jackson Jr. should be able to bully Portland on the block. Ja Morant and Dillon Brooks should also be able to get some easy mid-range shots attacking the Portland big men in the pick and roll. Attacking the paint will put the Portland defense on skates and should give them some easy looks at the basket which will help offset Lillard’s production.
Tonight’s matchup is big for both the Grizzlies and Trail Blazers. It could have major implications on the playoff race, and will also allow one team to go into the All-Star break feeling pretty good about themselves. The Trail Blazers have been hot as of late thanks to Lillard but the Grizzlies are still pretty darn good themselves. Lillard is going to get his points, but I think the Grizzlies bench is deep enough to help carry the Grizzlies to victory. The Grizzlies bench is one of the top 10 scoring benches in the league while the Trail Blazers bench just has Gary Trent Jr. to worry about, barring a surprise performance by an end of bench guy.
It will be close, but the home court (the only time against Portland this season Memphis will be at home) and bench advantage should be enough to push the Grizzlies to victory, especially with Portland on the second night of a back-to-back.
Grizzlies 125, Trail Blazers 120