Basketball is back, and the Grizzlies and Trailblazers decided to waste no time finding a quick flow to the game.
The Grizzlies and Trailblazers both started off with a flurry of success. 48 points were scored in the first 10 minutes of action. The Grizzlies were having success, as they made four threes to Portland’s zero makes from deep, a good trend in the Grizzlies’ favor. However, the Trailblazers were finding plenty of success on drives and mid-range attempts to establish an early lead.
Jaren Jackson Jr. had a tremendous start to the game, with 11 points on 4-7 shooting and three three pointers. Jonas Valanciunas also made his presence felt, with 12 points, including six from the line. The fouls in general were a big part of the first quarter. Though the Grizzlies did benefit, it certainly seemed to be excessive. Portland found their stroke from three late in the quarter, and shot 61.9% as whole in the first 12 minutes. An across the board production approach earned them a 35-30 lead to end the first.
Portland continued their successful scoring. as CJ McCollum could not be stopped. 17 points on 7-9 from the field in the first 18 minutes. Portland was simply finding success with quick passes and screen setups for good lucks and drives to the basket. Though Valanciunas kept the Grizzlies within range, Memphis fell off offensively, as their seemed to be no consistency or positive flow. After starting 7-14 from the field and 4-7 from deep, the Grizzlies trudged along in the second quarter, going 3-11 and 1-7, respectively. A rare occurrence where the Grizzlies struggled once the reserves took the court, perhaps highlighting the big loss of Tyus Jones. Another key development was the defense of Jusuf Nurkic. Though Hassan Whiteside was someone Memphis had to account for in the lane, Nurkic emerged as the key reason the Grizzlies were finding little success in the paint.
The Grizzlies started to find a bit more offensive success in the second half of the second quarter, but Portland also continued hitting shots. Portland continued finding success moving the ball, and a costly turnover lead to a Damian Lillard three to put Portland up by 11 with under three minutes left. The Grizzlies made a few adjustments out of a timeout, and went on a 10-5 run, mostly through utilizing good ball movement to find openings on the baseline and in the lane. However, a late Gary Trent Jr. three allowed Portland to enter the half with a 68-60 lead.
A big benefit for the Trailblazers was successfully beating the Grizzlies at their own game. Portland had 17 assists to the Grizzlies 11, and 24 points in the paint to the Grizzlies 18. Though Memphis was able to keep things close due to 11 more free throws, their usual methods of success were not producing at expected levels. Furthermore, the Blazers passing consistently allowed for them to find favorable matchups and looks to stay in control of the game. A combined total of 12 points on 4-14 shooting from Ja Morant, Dillon Brooks, and De’Anthony Melton did not help the Grizzlies cause.
Portland once again got off to a quick start in the 3rd thanks to Lillard and Nurkic, extending the lead to 13. Jackson Jr. and Brooks heated up a bit for Memphis, and the Grizzlies started the trim the lead. Morant and Brandon Clarke found ways to contribute as well, and the Grizzlies quickly produced a 17-6 run in just over four minutes to make the score 79-77 Portland. Jackson Jr. clearly found his groove during the scrimmage sessions, and Memphis was right back in the game.
The Grizzlies success continued, as they were able to turnovers into transition and continued forcing tough shots for Portland. A quick couple of emphatic buckets by Ja Morant allowed Memphis to take an 84-81 lead. Memphis continued find its success, as both Jackson Jr. and Morant continued to find quick scores in transition and good looks. Overall, Memphis achieved a 32-8 run over a nine minute stretch. Unfortunately, Lilliard ending the third with a good stretch of play, combining six points with a good assist for an open three to aid a 12-4 Portland run, allowing the TrailBlazers to pull back within three at the end of the third quarter.
Portland again found early success if five quick points to regain the lead, but the Grizzlies countered with an 12-6 run thans to Tolliver, Morant, and Brooks. Kyle Anderson also found his much improved shooting stroke in the process, and Memphis held a 108-103 lead with just over six minutes left. The Grizzlies would extend the lead to nine, but then both Memphis and Portland would find their grooves. The connection of Clarke and Morant kept the Grizzlies in front, but Nurkic, McCullom and Carmelo Anthony would not be denied. Two quick threes from Anthony gave Portland the lead, but Clarke was able to put home a loose ball putback. After a missed Anthony, Ja looked to deliver a win, but a slippery floor could not be denied. The teams went to overtime tied at 124.
Though Memphis clearly played better in the second half, it seemed to take a bit of energy out of their sails. Once again, Portland was able to find quick and easy success to open a quarter, jumping out to an 8-0 lead thanks to some wonderful play by Lillard. Memphis could not convert early looks, and Portland could not miss. McCollum again hit a three, and Clarke answered with a quick two. Memphis was not done yet, as free throws from Morant cut the lead to seven. Good defense and awareness from Jackson Jr. cut the lead to three, but Lillard again answered with a confident drive in the lane to get it back to five. Another free throw made the lead six, then Morant hit a tech to make the lead five. After a Melton putback, two Melo free throws and a bad pass ice the game for the TrailBlazers, who win 140-135.
Though the end result was disappointing, it was a good start to the bubble for Memphis. Despite a rough start, Morant looked like the best player on the court in the second half, and Memphis got 76 combined points from him, Clarke and Jackson Jr. However, Portland simply hit the shots it had too to secure the victory, with Lillard and McCollum combining for 62.
Though the Grizzlies will need to find some answers defensively and gains some second unit consistency, this young group knows the opportunity that lies in front of them. They look poised to take advantage of a favorable match up against San Antonio in two days.