WHO: Memphis Grizzlies (2-1, 1-1 road) @ Portland Trailblazers (1-2, 1-1 home)
WHEN: 9:00 PM CT
WHERE: Moda Center, Portland, Oregon
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Bally Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP:
PORTLAND: Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, Robert Covington, Nassir Little, Jusuf Nurkic
MEMPHIS: Ja Morant, De’Anthony Melton, Desmond Bane, Jaren Jackson Jr., Steven Adams
The spotlight of the entire NBA is shining brightly on none other than Temetrius “Ja” Morant and rightfully so. Has there ever been a Grizzlies player to walk into Staples Center and be the best player on the floor two nights in a row? How about making the fans in Staples ooh and ahh as Ja Morant completes his next impossible, and improbable, masterpiece on the floor?
The Memphis Grizzlies and the NBA’s leading scorer Ja Morant, boast the league’s best offense, but also a horrendous defense. Heading into game three of a four game West Coast swing, it would be a dangerous play to attempt to simply outscore Damian Lillard and company. However, Ja has tormented the Blazers at every turn, averaging 22.6 points 8.8 assists and 5.4 rebounds in 5 career matchups (3-2).
The Grizzlies should be able to score and Morant continue to shine, but there are few other keys to game for Memphis to walk away victorious:
Prevent Perimeter Prowess
Damian Lillard is currently 2-24 on the season from behind the arc. The Grizzlies would be wise to contribute to that trend and not the breaking of a slump. Memphis allowed the Los Angeles Lakers to shoot 16-30 from behind the arc, a trend that seems to haunt Memphis basketball regardless of generation. Without Norm Powell and Carmelo Anthony, if the Grizzlies can limit the starting backcourt from going supernova, Portland will be hard pressed to find scoring elsewhere.
Jusuf Nurkic has matched up with Steven Adams 14 times in his career and has managed to score more than 15 points just 5 times in that span. Surely, practice these last two days has focused on the key rotational mistakes on defense to limit the wide open perimeter shots.
The starting lineup for the Memphis Grizzlies has been dominant through the first three games. That is awesome, however, they have almost had to do it out of dire necessity due to the putrid performance of the bench thus far. There is a caveat in all of it, Kyle Anderson was a start last season and the transition is certainly an adjustment.
Through the first two games, both victories, the rotation seemed to be centered around one of Ja Morant or Jaren Jackson Jr being on the floor at all times. It worked. Ja was a de facto tandem with Steven Adams, and Jackson Jr ran a lot with the bench unit as the primary option. This seems like a genius recipe. Get Morant an elite screener while Jaren gets to work as a go-to scorer.
The rotations in the Lakers game did not hold to that as Xavier Tillman was introduced to the fold, eliminating “need” for Jaren to run heavier minutes with the bench. Granted the size of LA is tough, but it did not work. One of Ja and Jaren need to be on the floor at all times, period.
Pissed-off Ja Morant will be in the building Wednesday night and Portland should be terrified. He is already putting the league on notice, but after that missed free throw, he will come with a vengeance. Put Morant on watch to break 50.
Memphis should honestly roll through Portland and expedite the departure of Lillard.
Memphis 118 Portland 108
Bet the Bear: The Grizzlies are 4-1 ATS in Portland and 5-2 as an underdog in this matchup. If Memphis is a road dog here, take the Spread or MoneyLine. Whatever the over is, hammer it.