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Memphis Grizzlies vs. Portland Trail Blazers Game Preview

Last game before the All-Star break! Will the Grizzlies fall for the trap?

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Memphis Grizzlies v Portland Trail Blazers Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images

WHO: Memphis Grizzlies (41-18, 20-9 home) vs. Portland Trail Blazers (24-34, 8-18 road)

WHEN: 7:00 PM CT

WHERE: FedExForum — Memphis, TN

HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Bally Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis

INJURY REPORT:

MEMPHIS: Ja Morant (Questionable, ankle), Yves Pons (Out, thigh), Xavier Tillman Sr. (Out, thigh), Dillon Brooks (Out, ankle)

PORTLAND: Damian Lillard (Out, abdominal), Nassir Little (Out, torn labrum), Keon Johnson (Out, ankle), Didi Louzada (Out, knee and COVID-19 protocols), Joe Ingles (Out, knee), Eric Bledsoe (Out, Achilles), Dennis Smith Jr. (Out, elbow)

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS:

MEMPHIS: Ja Morant, Desmond Bane, Ziaire Williams, Jaren Jackson Jr., Steven Adams

PORTLAND: Anfernee Simons, CJ Elleby, Josh Hart, Justise Winslow, Jusuf Nurkic


Wow, a lot can change in a few months.

The last time these two teams played, the Memphis Grizzlies fell to the Portland Trail Blazers at home — thanks to the attack of Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, and Norman Powell. Fast-forward to February 16th, 2022, roughly 2 months later, and none of those guys are in the picture anymore. Lillard is out for the season, and McCollum and Powell are donning new uniforms.

Meanwhile, Portland has blown stuff up. Are they retooling? Rebuilding? Getting ready for something big? I’m not sure, but we know this.

Regardless of what they’re doing, Damian Lillard will not run from the grind.

While the Portland Trail Blazers reset their roster and free-fall down the Western Conference, the Memphis Grizzlies relied on continuity through the trade deadline, not breaking the formula that’s propelled them to the 3rd-best record in the league.

As we’re now entering the final game before the All-Star break, the Memphis Grizzlies will close a stellar stretch with a matchup against the new-look Portland Trail Blazers.


Memphis Grizzlies v Portland Trail Blazers Photo by Cameron Browne/NBAE via Getty Images

Do not take this team lightly

It’s super cliché to say, but it’s the NBA, and anyone can beat anyone on any given night. This Portland Trail Blazers squad proved that the other night, when they walked into Milwaukee and beat them by 15. Granted, Giannis Antetokounmpo did not play, but they shouldn’t even beat a Milwaukee team starred by Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday on the road.

They’ve gotten solid production across the board. Anfernee Simons is doing his best CJ McCollum impersonation, averaging 23.3 points and 6.1 assists with 45.8/41.5/84.5 shooting splits and 18.2/10.6/2.7 per-game volume splits in 22 games since the new year. Josh Hart is one of the best rebounding wings in the league, and he’s doing more this season with increased roles in New Orleans and Portland. Justise Winslow is doing NBA things again! He’s averaging 11.2 points, 7.4 rebounds, 3.4 assists, and 1.8 steals, while shooting 48% from the field, since joining Portland.

As eyes could be on the All-Star Break, the hope is the focus remains and the Grizzlies can take care of an inferior opponent.


Memphis Grizzlies v Portland Trail Blazers Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

Win Big

Steven Adams has been awesome the past few games.

Two of these matchups featured physical, traditional centers like Jonas Valanciunas and Mason Plumlee, and he’s outplayed them. Tonight he’s going to have another bruiser to battle with, as Jusuf Nurkic is on the opposing side.

How Adams fares in this physical warfare down low could dictate the game. What does that look like for him and the Grizzlies?

To start, they need to take advantage of Nurkic’s weaknesses. Similar to Valanciunas, Nurkic isn’t the best at defending in space, needing to rely on drop coverage in pick-and-roll situations. The Grizzlies need to attack this negative aspect of their opponent’s game to generate easy opportunities in the paint.

He also just needs to hold steady and avoid foul trouble. Charlotte’s goal last weekend was to get him in foul trouble, and a big part of their run came with Adams off the floor. Nurkic can use force as an advantage against guys like Jaren Jackson Jr. or Brandon Clarke. So, Adams needs to make himself available as often as possible and play smart, strategic defense.

Adams’ role is simple, and he makes the simple incredibly effective. As long as that standard continues tonight, he should be fine.

Prediction

Ahh, the All-Star trap game. The break ahead, inferior opponent, second half of a back-to-back, potentially without your All-NBA point guard.

We’ll see.

I bet the Memphis Grizzlies don’t fall for it. DraftKings Sportsbook, the official sportsbook partner of SB Nation, has the Grizzlies favored by 12. Good teams win, great teams cover.

Final — Grizzlies: 127, Trail Blazers: 112

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