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Portland Trail Blazers vs. Memphis Grizzlies Preview

The Trail Blazers hope that their rematch with the Grizzlies leaves Memphis singing the blues.

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NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Memphis Grizzlies Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers (17-13) vs. Memphis Grizzlies (16-14)

December 19th, 2018 - 7:00 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: None
Grizzlies injuries: Mike Conley (questionable), Joakim Noah (questionable), Chandler Parsons (out), Dillon Brooks (out)
How to watch on TV: NBATV, NBCSNW, NBA League Pass (outside of Portland)
How to stream: YouTube Live TV, Playstation Vue, Hulu Live TV, FuboTV, NBA League Pass (outside of Portland)
Radio: 620 AM
SBN Affiliate: Grizzly Bear Blues

The Portland Trail Blazers arrive home fresh off of a tight victory over the Los Angeles Clippers. Thanks to 39 points from Damian Lillard and a hot streak of shooting in the third quarter, Portland came out on top. The last time the Blazers played the Grizzlies, Lillard and Jusuf Nurkic combined to shoot a sluggish 5-33 from the field. The energy level of the players will determine which team shows up against the Grizzlies.

The Memphis Grizzlies are coming off of a loss to the Golden State Warriors and have dropped their last three games. Mike Conley missed the game against the Warriors due to hamstring soreness and is questionable for Wednesday; he logged 23 points against the Blazers in their previous matchup. This game against the Blazers is the second for the Grizzlies on a four-game swing through the west.

What to watch for

  • When the two teams met last week, the Blazers only had 4 offensive rebounds. One week ago the Grizzlies held the Blazers to a season-low 83 points. They struggled to grab offensive rebounds, failing to extend their possessions and losing out on second-chance points. While six offensive rebounds against the Clippers was an improvement, it is still far below their season average of 11.5 per game.
  • Bring back that bench spark. Bench energy is a key for the Blazers going forward. Last time they met, the Blazers bench only scored 15 points against the Grizzlies. While the starters came out hot against the Clippers with constant motion and cuts, the bench struggled to match the flow of the first unit in both the first and second halves.
  • Ball movement is key. The Blazers had 10 assists and no turnovers during the first quarter of the Clippers game. When the Blazers are able to get rebounds, control the pace of the game, and reach the peak of the flow offense, they perform well.

What they’re saying

Mark Giannotto of the Memphis Commercial Appeal gave some insight about the team’s thoughts regarding the trade-that-almost-was:

“We lost a game we felt like we should have won, and our minds were solely on that,” Conley said Saturday before the Grizzlies lost another game to the Rockets they were never really close to winning, “and then for this to come up, it was just kind of surreal.”

Joe Mullinax of Grizzly Bear Blues outlines how the Memphis Grizzlies are facing struggles of their own:

With a record of 3-6 in December and 4-9 in their last thirteen games, it would appear that Memphis is in a free fall. Gone are the days of longing for dreams of a 1st round home playoff series and getting the chance to see the Grizzlies go on a run. With the Western Conference being more brutal than ever before, the bears of Beale Street run the risk of falling out of the playoff picture entirely over the next month if they don’t “fix” the issue.

In the Los Angeles Times, Dan Woike explores how Mike Conley and Marc Gasol represent the “grit and grind” of Memphis:

In their 11th season together, a number Gasol says proudly, the Grizzlies are a threat for their seventh trip to the postseason thanks largely to their veterans. Conley, who missed almost all of last season because of a heel injury, is averaging 20.3 points and 6.5 assists — both near career bests. Gasol, long regarded as one of the best defensive centers, has evolved into a three-point threat while tutoring 19-year-old rookie Jaren Jackson Jr.