Blazers Can’t Find Rhythm in Memphis
The Portland Trail Blazers (15 – 13) visited the Memphis Grizzlies (16 – 11) Wednesday night on the second night of a back to back and lost 83 - 92. CJ McCollum scored 40 points but it wasn’t enough as Damian Lillard and Jusuf Nurkic struggled tonight combining for 5 – 33 shooting from the field. The Blazers once again got off to a hot start and at one point leading 15 – 4, but again let their opponent slowly work their way back and were down by 2 going in to half time after a 14 point second quarter. The Grizzlies defense should be credited as they held the Blazers to 83 points on the game. Memphis showed that they aren’t going to have a repeat of last season where they went 22 – 60 on the season and were 14th in the Western Conference.
The 19 year old Jaren Jackson Jr showed why he was the 4th pick in the 2018 NBA Draft out of Michigan State and contributed 14 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 blocks and had a lot of plays that won’t necessarily show up in the box score that really impacted the game. He hit a big three point shot down the stretch and showed his versatility on both ends of the floor. Mike Conley led the Grizzlies in scoring with 23 points. JaMychal Green scored 12 points and MarShon Brooks scored 13 points off the bench for Memphis. Marc Gasol may not have impacted the game much offensively, but had 6 blocked shots and can take some credit for Nurk’s rough night. The Grizzlies next game will be at home against Miami on Friday night.
Besides CJ McCollum’s 40 points, only two Blazers scored in double figures and that was Damian Lillard with 14 and Aminu with 10. Bench production was once again a problem as the Blazer bench scored a total of 15 points led by Nik Stauskas who scored 7 points on 3-6 shooting. Jake Layman got the start tonight for Moe Harkless who sat this game to rest his knee. Caleb Swanigan came in the game and made an immediate impact scoring on Marc Gasol right away, but ended up being his only points of the night. Zach Collins had 0 points tonight missing both of his two attempts and collected just 3 rebounds. Seth Curry played 0 minutes tonight and just hasn’t found his shot yet this season. Sooner or later this Blazer bench will get back to what they were earlier this season, and when they do Rip City will rise up.
· With 24 seconds left in the first quarter Evan Turner makes a great play to strip the ball from Casspi off a semi-fast break. Meyers Leonard collects the loose ball, passes ahead to Turner who drops a dime to Nik Stauskus who gathers and flushes down a dunk over a trailing MarShon Brooks.
· Late in the first half Jusuf Nurkic pokes the ball away from Marc Gasol and it falls to past half court, Damian Lillard then makes a great hustle play to dive for the ball before Mike Conley could pick it up. Dame finds Aminu, who swings the ball to CJ McCollum for a wide open three and he knocks it down prompting a Memphis time-out.
· At the 5:27 mark of the 4th quarter Damian Lillard brings the ball up, quickly blows by his defender Wayne Selden, split a double team on the drive and meets Marc Gasol at the basket. Dame jumped on the left side of the paint, but finished the incredible reverse layup on the right side of the basket which led to a Memphis time out after cutting the lead to 1 point.
Who Got Next
The Blazers head home to the Moda Center to play the team with the best record in the NBA, the Toronto Raptors. The Raptors (22 – 7) have gotten off to a great start this season with new addition Kawhi Leonard and emerging star Pascal Siakam who is proving to be a difference maker in the NBA. Kawhi Leonard has missed the previous two games with a hip injury and is considered questionable for the matchup against the Trail Blazers. The last time the Blazers faced the Raptors in the regular season was back in February of 2018 where the Blazers were defeated by 25 points. Tune in to the game Friday night at 7:00 PM on NBC Sports Northwest, or Rip City Radio 620 AM with the great Brian Wheeler.