The Blazers are back. They had a weird 1:00 PM local tip time today as they took on the team just ahead of them in the standings, Memphis Grizzlies. For the Blazers this was virtually a playoff game for them. They could not afford to fall 4.5 games behind the Grizzlies with only seven games left in the season.
Jusuf Nurkic also made his Blazer return, playing 33 minutes and scoring 18 points, with nine rebounds, five assists, and six blocks. CJ McCollum led the Blazers with 33 points, Damian Lillard had 29, Carmelo Anthony chipped in 21, and Gary Trent Jr. had 17 off the bench as the Blazers won, 140-135.
The game starts off just as you think it would with turnovers, bad passes, questionable shot selection. Memphis attacked the paint early to try and get some momentum going. They took a quick lead behind the shooting and attacking of Jaren Jackson Jr. The Blazers, as before the break, were slow on defensive rotations and allowing the Grizzlies to knock down open threes. They know Jackson is a good three point shooter and Collins collapsed three times into the paint instead of working to cover Jackson on the wing.
CJ McCollum got the Blazers on the board early with two easy drives into the paint. Jusuf Nurkic got his first NBA basket in 16 months on a big and one dunk. A couple of possessions later Carmelo Anthony hit a jumper to put the Blazers up 17-16.
Grizzlies respond to the Blazers switching to a 2-3 zone by finding Jackson in the corner again for another three. Jackson has 11 in the first six minutes of the game.
Defending the three point line was the biggest issue for the Blazers before the season was halted back in March. There has been plenty of time to get this rectified and the Blazers have simply not done it. Adding an elite defensive wing will not solve this, as the rest of the team is terrible on rotations and close outs.
One positive in the quarter was the bench scoring for the Blazers. They had 14 bench points in the quarter. Six points each from Mario Hezonja and Gary Trent Jr. With two more from Hassan Whiteside.
We also got to see the vaunted giant lineup from the Blazers with Nurk and Whiteside playing up front with Melo at the small forward position.
Blazers outscore the Grizzlies 35-30 in the quarter.
CJ McCollum starts off hot in the quarter. He got a quick five points to open the quarter as the Blazers pushed their lead to eight, 43-35. Hezonja is also having a really solid game. He was playing really well toward the stoppage and he’s picked up right where he left off.
Before the stoppage the Blazers couldn’t ever afford to let Dame have a long rest. To start the second quarter CJ, Mario, and Trent Jr. carried the team with ease. All three were making sharp passes, finding the right spots on the floor during breaks, hitting threes, knocking down shots. It allowed Dame to get five game minutes of rest and this was about 17 minutes in real time. That’s one of the longest rests he’s had in a game all year.
Jusuf Nurkic had a nice finish at the rim and a couple free throws to take the Blazers to a 54-42. The Grizzlies went a long stretch without knocking down a three point shot, but they have been to the line 26 times in the half. The Blazers started playing sloppy at this point and the Grizzlies cut the lead to six with 3:10 left in the half. Grayson Allen and Brandon Clarke both doing some damage to the Blazers.
Damian Lillard pushes the lead back to 11 in a hurry with a quick layup and his first three of the night.
Memphis closed the lead to five in the last minute, but Gary Trent Jr. hit another three at the buzzer to give the Blazers a 68-60 lead at the half.
The Blazers start off the third quarter by attacking the paint. Lillard got into the paint for a couple easy buckets and then Nurkic hit a jump hook in the middle of the paint to extend Portland’s lead out to 75-63 to open the half.
Memphis, behind Ja Morant, started to push the pace. Morant was able to get to the rim with ease to get a few layups and a floater in the lane. Jackson pushed the Grizzlies up to a 15-4 run by hitting a three. Stotts called timeout to stop the bleeding with the Blazers lead cut to 79-77.
Portland got sloppy a few minutes into the third after pushing up the lead. They weren’t able to keep up with the pace of Morant set. The Grizzlies started trapping in half court sets and forced the Blazers into more turnovers, with Morant having a person 7-0 run to give the Grizzlies an 84-81 lead. After going down by a quick 12 in the quarter, the Grizzlies have outscored the Blazers 22-6 in a five minute stretch.
The Blazers offense became stagnant, the ball stopped moving, and they could not make a shot. The pressure the Grizzlies defense put on the Blazers really got them out of their game. The Memphis defense was absolutely swarming. Any time the Blazers attempted to get a set going the Grizzlies would trap the ball handler and swipe the ball away. This led to a lot of turnovers and the Grizzlies to get a double digit lead as they went on a 30-6 run.
Lillard led the Blazers back getting the lead back to single digits in the final two minutes. Zach Collins ended the quarter with five points and got the Blazers within three points, 93-96 as the third quarter ended.
CJ McCollum and Hassan Whiteside give the Blazers the lead back in the first 45 seconds of the quarter. Portland looked like they were ready to get back into the groove they were in through much of the second and the first two minutes of the third.
Former Blazer, Anthony Tolliver, hit a corner three to give Memphis the lead right back. Memphis once again pushed the lead out to double digits.
It was at this point the game slowed down. Lots of fouls and missed free throws by both teams. Memphis got into the penalty in the first three and half minutes in the quarter. Portland could not take advantage of it.
Nurkic started to get moving in the final few minutes, getting another block, and dominating Memphis in the low post. Jaren Jackson Jr. attempted to body up on him, but Nurk went right through him for a nice hook in the post. A possession later Nurk made a great move for a thunderous dunk. Collins attacked the basket hard the next time down the floor to cut the Grizzlies lead down to one, 114-115.
In the final two minutes, the teams traded blows. Melo gave the Blazers a lead with a three from the corner. Ja Morant came back to give the Grizzlies a lead, then CJ answered for the Blazers, then Morant got the Grizzlies the lead back.
This felt like an old school 80’s playoff game. Up and down, teams answering each other.
Blazers had a chance to ice the game, but couldn’t get a shot off in the final 10
seconds. Ja Morant got the loose ball and raised down the court, but tripped over his own feet as the ball bounced away and time expired with the game tied up at 124.
The Blazers started overtime with a pair of threes by both CJ McCollum and Gary Trent Jr. Trent also got the assignment on Morant and forced the Grizzlies into a couple of tough possessions. Damian Lillard hit a layup to force the Grizzlies to call a timeout. After the break, CJ his another three to give the Blazers an 11 point lead.
Once again, the Blazers got sloppy as the Grizzlies forced three quick Blazer turnovers and they were able to cut the the lead down to three, 135-132 on another Jaren Jackson Jr. three.
Damian Lillard iced the game with a layup and two free throws.
Blazers take on the Boston Celtics in another must win on Sunday at 12:30 PM. The game is on ABC.