Portland Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum scored 40 points against the Memphis Grizzlies, but his offensive explosion could not overcome a poor shooting night from the rest of the team as Portland fell, 92-83. The Blazers shot 36.8% from the floor as their bench got outscored 38-15. Portland hung around most of the game but their offensive ineptitude did them in. Mike Conley led the Grizzlies with 23 points.
The Lone Soldier
At the half, Portland’s bench was getting outplayed...a frequent issue lately. Everyone on the Blazers’ second unit was a net negative on the court and were outscored by the Grizzlies bench 28-8. The majority of Portland’s starters were not carrying their weight either. Damian Lillard, Jusuf Nurkic, Jake Layman, and Al-Farouq Aminu were a combined 4-21 in the half. So how in the world was this a two point game at the midpoint?
Short answer: CJ McCollum. CJ had the whole arsenal working in the first half. He was getting into the lane and finding space just inside the free throw line and hitting from outside. CJ had 20 in two quarters on 8-12 shooting, and single-handedly kept the Blazers alive early.
More of the same
The second half was very similar to the first, other than an especially cold streak by the Blazers to finish the game. Dame and Nurk struggled, CJ was dominant, and the rest of the Blazers did very little to move the needle. The drought at the end was the sealant on the game as the Grizzlies walked away winners.
CJ McCollum - Shots taken by CJ McCollum tonight were over twice as likely to go in than shots by the rest of the team. It felt even more lopsided than that. McCollum finished with half of his team’s made field goals. He was unstoppable. He demanded the ball and he was getting everywhere on the court that he wanted to. Once he got there, everything dropped. If one other Blazers player actually played well, they’d probably have gotten the W.
Damian Lillard - Dame put up a season low of 14 points tonight. Worse, it took him 18 shots to get there. Opposing defenses rarely matters to Dame, who makes a living hitting tough shots, but nothing was falling for him tonight. He struggled with turnovers too, getting four early, but finished the game with just the four. He looked out of sorts. Hopefully a trip back to Portland is the cure.
Jusuf Nurkic - It wasn’t Nurk’s day today either. He finished 1-15 from the floor, got his shot blocked multiple times, and he couldn’t corral anything on the offensive boards. The Grizzlies are a great defensive team and deserve credit for the struggles of Portland’s offense, but Nurkic was also missing a lot of bunnies that he should be converting. It was a bad game for Nurk.
Nik Stauskas - Stauskas was the closest thing the Blazers had to a useful bench player tonight. After having no one that fit that description last game, this was a step up. Stauskas was aggressive with the ball, looking for his shot, but he made some great reads and dishes in the lane. A couple of them were unfortunately not converted but he still finished with a pair of assists. Nik ran with the starting unit at the three for a large portion of the second half. He even had the dunk of the game! These are little things, but positive ones.
Caleb Swanigan - Biggie got some run tonight and had a great post-up and bucket early. He pretty much struggled after that though.
This was just an ugly, ugly game all around. Both teams looked sloppy and out of sorts, but Portland also looked tired and unmotivated. Honestly, they played like a team that was on the second game of a back-to-back (which they were). Portland got up 11 in the first quarter but the second unit came in and coughed up the lead and the starting unit didn't have the energy to keep up. The bench is a massive concern, especially in tough schedule stretches when the starting unit may be gassed.
Tonight, the whole team looked gassed. Portland only managed 4 offensive rebounds on the game and no player other than CJ McCollum scored in the final 5:30 of the match. Portland needs a jolt and apparently it needs to be bigger than 40 from CJ McCollum. Let’s hope they get it soon. The schedule doesn’t get any easier.
Blazers head home to take on the Eastern Conference leading Toronto Raptors on Friday.