Ja Morant and Brandon Clarke dominate Blazers, Damian Lillard injured

by Kevin Nesgoda

After the debacle last night the Blazers are in Memphis tonight to take on Ja Morant and the Grizzlies. The Blazers gave up a career-high 31 to Zion Williamson and played one of the worst transition defense games I have ever seen. Things do not improve tonight with Morant running the offense. He’s already one of the best ball handlers in the game and is going to pick apart the defense tonight.

This is the Blazers’ last game before the All-Star break and they really need this right now. The Blazers are four games behind the Grizzlies in the loss column, so they need to get a win tonight in Memphis to set the stage for the final 26 games. They play Memphis twice more the rest of the way.

Morant is killing Damian Lillard on the dribble early. Dame has no idea what to do. Halfway through the first quarter, there have been at least seven times that Morant has blown by Dame off the dribble. He’s getting to any spot on the court that he wants. He’s getting points in the paint and finding three-point shooters.

Carmelo Anthony is being aggressive and trying to shoot himself out of the slump. He’s 1-7 with turnovers in the first six minutes and that’s about all you really need to know on how he’s doing in his effort tonight.

Being aggressive and actually doing some good is Trevor Ariza, he has two steals and a timely three.

The Blazers are taking advantage of the Grizzlies youth and forcing some turnovers and they have jumped out on a 9-0 to take an 18-11. It forces Taylor Jenkins to take a timeout. With the starters not having to play the fourth quarter last night, they look spry so far in this game. They did last night too until the wheels came off in the second quarter.

Jaren Jackson Jr. and De’Anthony Melton respond out of the timeout with corner threes to get the Grizzlies back within one point. The Blazers did a horrible job closing out after drives by Tyus Jones. Jones then gives a lob to Brandon Clarke for a 10-0 run of their own and they get the lead back, 21-18.

Clarke is out of Gonzaga and has the fifth-best field goal percentage in the league this year. I was a big fan of his at Gonzaga and thought he was a steal for the Grizzlies late in the draft. He’s out there blocking shots and getting points in the paint.

The Blazers bench was outscored by the Memphis bench 15-5. The Blazers are down four heading into the second quarter, 31-27.

Blazers start out the second quarter by not covering the corners after a Morant drive and Gorgui Dieng hits the Grizzlies 90th corner three of the game. Morant and well any Grizzly, in general, is able to get into the paint at will and either find a wide-open teammate for a basket or they get an easy layup/dunk.

CJ McCollum hits a three to prove that he’s still collecting a paycheck. The dude scores the quietest 21.3 points in a game this season. He has 13 points tonight and I have no idea how he got there. Hassan Whiteside is also in the middle of having the worst game of his Blazer career at the moment. He’s been a total non-factor and getting clowned out there.

This team is gassed and it’s really starting to show.

It feels like Dillon Brooks should have ten points and ten assists so far in this game, but he doesn’t. He’s playing incredibly well for the Grizzlies. Jonas Valanciunus is also having a nice night for the Grizz. He’s beating down Whiteside on both sides of the court right now.

Anfernee Simons has four threes in the game and has helped the Blazers close to within four points at the half. The Blazers were down by as many as 14. I thought the Blazers were on their way to another blowout loss to a young and upcoming team. But they are showing some heart tonight. They only have to play 24 more minutes and they get a well deserved week off.

I don’t get why we can’t get a good game from Simons and Trent at the same time. If they could both produce at the same time and give Dame a little more rest I think the team will be in much better shape on the stretch run. I have to wonder how close Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins are to coming back. They’ve been in practice lately, so things have to be getting close.

The Blazers start the third with Trevor Ariza on Morant. Morant has abused both Lillard and CJ, so why not give someone else ago. It doesn’t matter who is on him, Morant is just killing the Blazers tonight. He has it all working and his dribbling ability is on video game levels. It’s scary to think that this dude is about five years from his prime and he’s going to get better and better for the next decade.

Once again the Blazers come out cold to start the third quarter. When the Blazers lose they have a terrible third quarter and they have seven points through the first six minutes of the third. Things do not look good for them tonight in Memphis.

The game has a weird feel to it tonight. The Grizzlies are by far outplaying the Blazers in every aspect of the game and it feels like they should be up 20 plus points, but someone the Blazers are only down nine halfway through the third.

Blazers are only shooting 40% tonight and are down ten at the end of the third, 92-82.

We start the fourth quarter just plodding along on defense once again. Brandon Clarke is doing whatever he wants in the paint, he’s got 22 points in the paint tonight. Did I mention he was a steal in the draft?

With the Blazers down 14, Damian Lillard drove to the basket got blocked Jonas blocked his shot and he immediately grabbed his groin. First thought was that he took a knee to the man region, but on replay, there was no contact with the area and he landed funny. Dame walked back to the lockerroom gingerly.

CJ had 23 points, Simons had 22 off the bench, Melo was 1-15 from the floor, Whiteside had 16, 11 and two techs, Ariza had 12.

The final was 111-104.

Next up is the All-Star break.

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