WHERE: FedExForum in Memphis, TN
WHEN: 8:00 PM CT
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Bally Sports Southeast/ 92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
PORTLAND: Zach Collins (Out, ankle)
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP:
MEMPHIS: Ja Morant, Grayson Allen, Dillon Brooks, Kyle Anderson, Jonas Valanciunas
PORTLAND: Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Norman Powell, Robert Covington, Jusuf Nurkic
Here we go again. It is quite rare to see a team three times in one week outside of the Playoffs, but here we are squaring off with the seventh seeded Portland Trail Blazers for the third time since Friday. The eighth seeded Grizzlies took care of business in Portland on Friday and Sunday.
If you are looking for the Grizzlies to have a rival this season, look no further. It isn't the New Orleans Pelicans, who isn't even a threat this year it would seem. It isn’t the Atlanta Hawks, who you only see twice a year. How about a team that knocked you out of the playoffs last season and is on pace to be the 7-8 play-in match up again this season? That fits.
The Blazers are currently 1.5 games ahead of Memphis in the standings after finally getting off their losing streak, defeating the Indiana Pacers last night. They will be on the second night of a back to back, both on the road as Memphis returns home after their seven game road trip ended with a loss in Denver Sunday afternoon.
So how can the Grizzlies sweep the season series against the Blazers?
Dillon, Be Dillon
The Grizzlies need Dillon the agitator to be on his worst behavior against Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. Brook’s bigger frame on Lillard has clearly bothered the superstar during their first two meetings this week and Memphis will need him to continue to be a thorn in his side Wednesday night.
Supernova Dillon would be a welcome sight, but Brooks needs to focus all his energy on the defensive and allow the offense to come to him rather than force contested shots as he has fallen back into the last few games. Whether he is on Dame or CJ, his ability to get under their skin will be a big part of the results.
Jaren the Sniper
Jaren will be in his fourth contest since returning to play from his nine month hiatus and his first at home. The Grizzlies offense really struggled to get going against Denver and hopefully being back on his home floor allows Jaren to find his stroke from deep. His ability to spread to the floor from the five unlocks a whole new level of offense that neither Jonas Valanciunas nor Xavier Tillman Sr. can offer.
Jaren has been shooting and shooting and shooting during his rehab, mostly on his home floor. The energy being in front of the home crowd for the first time combined with the familiarity of his own bed/gym should be a recipe for shooting success against a porous Portland defense.
Parking it in the Paint
The Trailblazers are notoriously bad on the defensive end of the court — they have to play to outgun the opponent nightly, which has to be exhausting. This is and should be the type of game where Memphis threatens to beat their franchise record for points in the paint. Nurkic and Kanter are not threatening defensive presences, so Memphis should attack the paint early and often. The three point shot has not been falling as of late for the Grizz, so to avoid a slow start against a dynamic offense, they need to get to the rim by drives or dumping it down to Valanciunas.
The Grizzlies have oddly struggled at home but have had a day of rest while the Blazers are on their second night of a back to back. Dillon Brooks has ruffled the feathers of their star backcourt and that may be the motivation for Dame and CJ to seek some vengeance.
You seem to never know what you will get from Memphis, but with their fully healthy roster, being back home and the tired legs of the Blazers, the Grizzlies might just have all the factors in their favor.
Memphis 124 - Portland 119