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Quick Recap: Grizzlies burned by Blazers in final game before the All-Star break

They fell to the trap. Cancun on 3.

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Portland Trail Blazers v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images

One last game to wrap up a stellar stretch of the season. The Memphis Grizzlies hit the golden “40 before 20” Phil Jackson contenders theory, as they entered this game 41-18. They’re also 32-8 in their past 40 games. They’re just playing elite basketball, and it’s a shame we have to have a pause in the action.

Tonight, they faced off against a new-look Portland Trail Blazers team that’s look reenergized since their flurry of trade deadline deals. The Grizzlies fell into the “last game before the All-Star break” trap, and dug themselves into too deep of a hole early. Despite the late efforts, the Blazers came away with a 123-119 win.

Ja Morant, the perfect tune-up game for an All-Star starter

After sitting out last night’s game with ankle soreness, Ja Morant returned to the lineup and didn’t miss a beat.

He seemingly got to the basket at will, which is an evergreen statement at this point. He also got to the line at will, looking like Dwyane Wade in the 2006 Finals out there. Portland just didn’t have any answers for him, and he recognized that on his rampage inside the paint.

Morant finished with 44 points, 11 assists, and 5 rebounds, while shooting a franchise-record 25 free throw attempts (made 21).

All-Star starter Ja Morant has played like 1 of the best guards — if not the best — in the entire association. He has also built a case to be a MVP candidate as well. Tonight was a great statement game for both of those honors.

Got to the All-Star break

Look, it’s the second half of a back-to-back, and it’s the night before the All-Star break. Urgency wasn’t there. Those things happen here and there, especially for playoff teams with an eye to the All-Star break. You could see the lack of energy and urgency from their guys, and it particularly stuck with Jaren Jackson Jr. and Steven Adams.

Portland Trail Blazers are full of teams looking for shots in the league, and they’re pesky too. They hit a bunch of shots and took advantage of the Grizzlies’ lethargic defense. It happens, it’s the NBA.

Oh well, they’re to the All-Star break. It’s going to be much-deserved.

Quick Takeaways

  • Desmond Bane was getting ready for the All-Star weekend festivities too. Bane looked like a rising star and a 3-point marksman. Bane was a great co-star to Desmond Bane with 30 points, drilling 7 of his 12 three-point attempts as well. Like for Morant, it was a perfect tune-up to remind people that Bane is one of the bright young combo guards in this league.
  • Brandon Clarke and Ziaire Williams brought extra energy. It looked like the Grizzlies were really getting hit by the second half of a back-to-back, right before the All-Star break. Ziaire Williams and Brandon Clarke played a big part in injecting some life into the game. Williams got out to a nice start, as the starters aside from Morant came out a tad sluggish. Clarke also played a key role in providing the Grizzlies with a good dose of energy in the first half as well, doing his usual rim-running and cutting for finishes in the paint.
  • Portland’s got something... Portland’s going to do something this summer. I don’t know what it is, but they have $60M+ in cap space, a $21M trade exception, and probably 2 lottery picks. Retooling around Damian Lillard seems ideal. Between Anfernee Simons (who may just get an offer sheet with a blank check this summer) and Josh Hart, and whatever they do with Jusuf Nurkic, they got some stuff. Chauncey Billups has this team playing hard on both sides of the ball. Portland should be a scrappy team that catches some playoff teams sleeping down the stretch.

Enjoy the All-Star break. This has been such a fun stretch of basketball.

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