Grizzlies vs Trail Blazers Live: The Blazers resume their pursuit of the 8-seed in a crucial matchup with the Grizzlies. The Grizzlies’ season resumes Friday in Orlando inside the NBA bubble at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports complex. With the Portland Trail Blazers just 3.5 games behind the Memphis Grizzlies for the highly coveted eighth seed in the Western Conference, Friday.
GAME: NBA 2020
When: July 31,
How to watch: Click Here
A lot is going to have to change for the Portland Trail Blazers to have any chance at garnering the No. 8 playoff spot in the Western Conference.
And it’s going to have to happen quickly.
The Trail Blazers meet the No. 8 seed, the Memphis Grizzlies, Friday afternoon in their first of eight seeding games. That game counts.
Portland players have constantly talked about how important it is to beat the Grizzlies, to stay ahead of New Orleans in the standings and move closer to Memphis.
But in three scrimmages, the Blazers have looked a long way from being able to “hit the ground running,” as they’ve said they want to do.
Are the Trail Blazers ready for that challenge? Their coach certainly thinks they are.
“We better be,” Terry Stotts said. “That was the whole objective of these three weeks, to get ready for that game. So, yeah.”
So does “We better be” mean they ARE ready or he HOPES they are ready?
“We’re ready,” he replied. “I mean, there’s no question we’re ready.”
It didn’t look that way for much of Tuesday’s scrimmage or through a lot of the previous two exhibitions.
The Blazers played without starting guards Damian Lillard and CJ McCollium and dropped a 131-120 decision to the Oklahoma City Thunder, which played without Chris Paul.
The loss in itself wasn’t distressing. These are non-counting games and the result is to be forgotten. But there were some distressing signs from Portland, particularly on defense.
The Trail Blazers continued to do a poor job of contesting three-point shooters, as the Thunder — one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the league — hit 20-40 from long range.
But even worse, given the Trail Blazers used a lot of big lineups, with Jusuf Nurkic, Zach Collins and Hassan Whiteside, OKC made 24 of its 44 shots in the paint for 48 points.
Yes, Lillard and McCollum are going to make a big difference, particularly at the offensive end. But Portland had big trouble containing dribble-penetration through the three games, which led to baskets in the paint or kick-outs to open three-point shooters.
The Trail Blazers meet Boston and Houston — two solid three-point shooting teams — immediately following the Memphis game. Allowing uncontested threes to those teams could be a big problem.
But things can change rapidly in the NBA and certainly the presence of Lillard on the floor — and Stotts said he expects his captain to play against the Grizzlies — can be a big factor.
The results of the scrimmages mean nothing. And Stotts downplayed them. Asked what his team accomplished in the scrimmages, he said, “I don’t know about the scrimmages.”
“I think our practices were probably more beneficial than our scrimmages, but playing extended minutes, playing in nine, 10-minute stretches, from a conditioning standpoint, was probably the most important thing for us.
“We had a lot of practice time and did a lot of things we wanted to get done, so the games were more about just playing games.”
They certainly weren’t about winning games. But winning doesn’t count until Friday,Placed 8th in the Western Conference, the Memphis Grizzlies are in the drivers’ seat for a play-in spot with a 3.5 game lead over the chasing pack. While they started off the season with low expectations, their relatively young team has held up to the challenge of making the playoffs remarkably.
A 1-2 record in the scrimmages notwithstanding, the Grizzlies look ready to roll. The injury absences of Tyus Jones and Jontay Porter will impact their chances in games to come.The 20-year-old will be a mismatch for both Lillard and McCollum on offense with his athleticism. He has the tools to cause problems for them on D. His speed and pick-and-roll/pick-and-pop combinations with Jonas Valanciunas and Jaren Jackson Jr will be key to opening up the rest of their offense.The Blazers will be hoping to have their star guard duo of Lillard and McCollum back – they were rested for their final scrimmage game. A number of injuries had derailed most of the Blazers’ campaign, but they rallied for their playoff push in mid-January. They look poised to make a real run at the 8th seed.
The absences of Rodney Hood and Trevor Ariza will hurt, though. The likes of Carmelo Anthony and Mario Hezonja, with Gary Trent Jr, will have to pick up the slack.The 6’1″ combo guard will need to bring his A-game, given that the defensive excellence of Ja Morant will likely keep Lillard off his. McCollum has the handles, mid-range game and scoring touch to take the scoring load, but his ability to create will be the difference-maker in this clash.Neither the Memphis Grizzlies nor the Portland Trail Blazers got the types of outings they would have wanted in their 3 scrimmage games. The Blazers went 0-3, while the Grizzlies had one encouraging performance in the final game against the Heat that saved their faces with a 1-2 record.
The defining question of this game will be whether the Blazers will be able to defend the perimeter well enough against a team that loves transition. Lillard and McCollum will almost definitely get to their 20-25 point quota for the game, but they will need Nurkic and Whiteside to chip in with scoring to stand a chance.
The Memphis Grizzlies look like the more balanced team at current strength, though Dillon Brooks has blown hot and cold throughout the season. But Lillard’s reliability in the 4th quarter makes the Portland Trail Blazers the favourites to win this game.