WHERE: Moda Center in Portland, Oregon
WHEN: 3:00 PM CT
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Bally Sports Southeast/ 92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
PORTLAND: Derrick Jones Jr. (Questionable, hip), Zach Collins (Out, ankle)
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP:
MEMPHIS: Ja Morant, Grayson Allen, Dillon Brooks, Kyle Anderson, Xavier Tillman
PORTLAND: Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Norman Powell, Robert Covington, Jusuf Nurkic
For the second time in three days, the Memphis Grizzlies will face off with the Trail Blazers in Portland. This time, they will be without Jaren Jackson Jr., but may have a returning Jonas Valanciunas in the lineup.
The injury management of Jaren is expected, but also disappointing after seeing him play so well Friday night in the Grizzlies hard fought 130-128 victory. He scored 23 points in 25 minutes of action and looked to be in game form. But, as we have seen all season long with the Grizz, they are more focused on what’s best for the future and not the present.
The present though is what most Grizz fans are focused on, and right now they are in the thick of a playoff hunt. A victory today would win the season series against the Blazers, putting them a half game behind them for the seventh spot. A win would also guarantee a winning record on this tough 7 game road trip that they are on the backend of.
Let’s take a look at three things the Grizzlies need to do in hopes of getting back-to-back W’s against Portland.
Stop the Runs
Friday night’s slugfest was tight the whole way. The Grizzlies did a good job containing the Blazers when it looked like they may pull away. Neither team held a double-digit lead or went on a double-digit scoring run.
But, a team with both Damien Lillard and CJ McCollum in the backcourt can catch fire quick, and all of the sudden a small lead has turned into a double-digit deficit.
On Friday, the Grizzlies did a good job keeping Lillard and McCollum in check; between Dillon being a menace chasing them around the court, and good help defense when they would get loose. The Grizz will have to do that again to have a shot today
Get to the Line
The Grizzlies were the better team in the first half of Friday’s game. That’s why they took a 62-56 lead into the break. They were able to win in part of their ability to get to the free throw line in the second half.
The team only attempted 5 free throws in the first half, compared to 17 in the second half. As we’ve seen in past games, free throws are only good if you make them. The Grizz shot their season average, 77%, but made them when they counted down the stretch.
The Grizzlies ability to get to the free throw line in the second half also prevented the Blazers’ offense from getting in too much of a rhythm, which helps with the first key to the game.
If Jusuf Nurkic plays like he did Friday, I don’t think the Grizzlies will win this one. I have a sneaky suspicion that Grizz killer CJ McCollum will go off one of these two next games against the Blazers, while Dame will be Dame. The Grizzlies cannot have a third player go off as well and expect to win.
Nurkic finished with 26 points and 17 rebounds, both season-highs. He was able to handle whoever the Grizzlies threw at him. If Jonas Valanciunas returns, that would be a big boost for the Grizzlies, as he provides a big body to bang down low with Nurkic. Valanciunas will better compete for rebounds and wear him down.
Despite Nurkic having his way, the Grizzlies still outscored the Blazers in the paint, 74 to 58. Many of those points came on floaters and drives to the basket. A Jonas return would more than likely increase that gap between the teams.
In the regular season, the Grizzlies and Blazers have swapped wins in their last 13 matchups. The last two-game regular season win streak in this series is way back in 2016. That doesn’t bode well for the Grizzlies, and neither does the absence of Jaren Jackson Jr.
I said in the report card yesterday that Ja played a perfect game Friday night, and he’s going to have to do it again if the Grizzlies hope to win back-to-back games against Portland. But, while Grizzlies fans know CJ McCollum as a Grizz killer, Ja is his most successful against the Blazers. Portland is the only team he averages a double-double against in his young career.
Saying all of that, it’s going to be a close one, but the Grizzlies offense has been clicking on a different level this month. Right now, the Grizz are a 3.5 point dog, and I think they cover and win.
Prediction: Grizzlies 122, Portland 116