WHEN: 9:00 PM CT
WHERE: Moda Center in Portland, Oregon
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Bally Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS: Brandon Clarke (Out, knee), Sam Merrill (Out, ankle), Ja Morant (Out, Knee & Health and Safety Protocols), Ziaire Williams (Out, ankle)
PORTLAND: CJ McCollum (Out, right lung pneumothorax), Cody Zeller (Out, right patellar fracture)
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP:
MEMPHIS: Tyus Jones, Desmond Bane, Dillon Brooks, Jaren Jackson Jr., Steven Adams
PORTLAND: Damian Lillard, Norman Powell, Nassir Little, Larry Nance Jr., Jusuf Nurkic
The Grizzlies and Trail Blazers enter tonight’s contest on opposite ends of the spectrum. The Grizzlies have won 8 of their last 9 games, while the Blazers have lost 9 of their last 10 games including a 6 game losing streak entering tonight. Memphis comes in with a day off following Monday’s win over the 76ers while the Blazers played (and lost) last night against the Phoenix Suns.
The Blazers are slowly getting healthier after a string of bad injury luck. They got Anfernee Simons and Damian Lillard back over the weekend, making the team a more formidable opponent than the team they’ve had to put out for the greater part of their slump the last few weeks.
With the Blazers playing last night, it’s not unreasonable that the Blazers rest Lillard (who got a cortisone shot last week to help mitigate the lingering pain in his abdomen). There was no update on Lillard’s status at the time of the article going live, so we will assume Lillard is playing and won’t complain if he ultimately sits out.
Here are a few keys for the Grizzlies to continue their winning ways.
Due to their injuries and overall depth, the Blazers bench hasn’t been great over the last few weeks. The Blazers have been playing a mostly 7 man rotation with Anfernee Simons and one of Robert Covington or Larry Nance Jr. coming off the bench. They’ll play spot minutes for guys like Ben McLemore, Tony Snell or Dennis Smith Jr. but they predominately stick with their starters and Simons for their offensive output. Meanwhile, the Grizzlies are coming off a game where they got a combined 57 points from their bench, with 49 of those points coming from rotation guys. Naturally the numbers are slightly inflated due to garbage time stats with the Grizzlies up big in the second half. Still, the Grizzlies bench has another chance to dominate and really help carry the team against a starter-heavy Blazers squad.
The Grizzlies defense has picked up drastically since Ja Morant went out without injury. Multiple players have credited the pick up defensively to the team being smarter and better while shifting and rotating. In the first matchup of the season, the Damian Lillard and Jusuf Nurkic pick and roll destroyed the Grizzlies as the Blazers used a strong 3rd quarter to blow out Memphis. Having Dillon Brooks for this matchup should help a ton in guarding Lillard with both JJJ and Steven Adams looking better on the defensive end over the last few weeks. The rotations helped the Grizzlies rack up 12 steals on Monday and could see a similar result tonight if they are locked in, especially if Lillard doesn’t play or isn’t 100%.
The game depends a lot on Lillard’s availability. It is pure speculation on my behalf if Lillard will be available since the Blazers likely won’t release their injury report until later this morning after playing last night, but even if he plays he likely won’t be 100% and the Grizzlies will need to take advantage. Dillon Brooks’ physicality on the defensive end will likely give Lillard some fits causing him to be more passive on the offensive end. I ultimately don’t think the Blazers have enough offensive firepower outside of Lillard and Simons to keep up with a well-balanced Grizzlies attack.
I expect it to be a close battle at first, but the Grizzlies will pull away late as the Blazers struggles without CJ McCollum continue.
Memphis 112 Portland 105