Portland Trail Blazers at Memphis Grizzlies (-5, 191.5 o/u)
While many NBA fans were surprised to see the Portland Trail Blazers (52-34, 19-24 away) beat the Memphis Grizzlies (58-28, 33-10 home) on Monday (99-92) to avoid elimination, the winning team took a different approach.
“I think since the last game when we went [down] 0-3 [in the series], the big thing we’ve been talking about is having heart and playing with pride, and just not being swept,” said guard Damian Lillard, who scored 32 points for Portland in the win. “Everybody’s always saying, ‘Nobody’s ever done it, coming back from 0-3.’ We didn’t want to focus on that. We wanted to focus on just today, and doing everything we had to do to give ourselves a chance to keep playing.”
Blazers forwards LaMarcus Aldridge and C.J. McCollum did their part against the Grizzlies vaunted frontcourt of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. Aldridge had 18 points and 12 rebounds while McCollum poured in 18 points of his own.
More importantly, Portland’s seven-game losing streak to the Grizzlies came to an end.
“Well, it was good to get a win, obviously. That’s an understatement,” said Blazers coach Terry Stotts.
For Memphis, injuries have suddenly become a huge concern. Starting point guard Mike Conley is out with facial fractures, and his backup, Beno Udrih, is battling through an ankle injury. The result is that the unheralded Nick Calathes (14.4 MPG, 4.2 PPG in the regular season) started Game 4. The Greek national scored 12 points – all on three-point shots – while splitting time with the hobbled Udrih.
Thanks to 21 points from Marc Gasol and 19 from Courtney Lee, though, Memphis was in a position to win Game 4 late. But the defense was uncharacteristically torched for 31 points in the fourth quarter.
“When you’re up ten points with six minutes [left] in the game in this league, you got to finish,” said Randolph. “Especially in these circumstances and what we’re playing for.”
“We stopped competing,” added Gasol. “We tried to trade buckets with them, and we played a little bit too fast. We did not execute as well as we could have … They took away the momentum that we built and got away with a win. Got to give them credit.”
Even though Portland is 2-8 ATS in its last ten games, look for the Trail Blazers to give the Grizzlies a game tonight, especially with Conley on the sideline again. That’s why Portland and the points (+5) is the play.
(Photo credit: Sean Davis (flickr) “Mike Conley” [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/legalcode].)