While it wasn’t always easy on the eyes, the Portland Trail Blazers turned in a stellar effort against the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night, earning a 99-92 victory. Portland’s bench outscored the Memphis second-unit 44-14 on the night, leading the charge. Damian Lillard led the Blazers with 24 points, and Mike Conley paced the Grizzlies with 23.
Despite a rough start out of the gates from both teams, particularly the Blazers, things cleaned up a bit in the second quarter. Conley caught fire in the final minutes of the first half, giving the Grizzlies the five point advantage at the break. The third quarter belonged to Lillard and the Blazers. Dame scored 15 in the frame, hitting four three-pointers. After Portland’s bench extended the lead early in the fourth, the Blazers were able to withstand a late Grizzlies run to seal a relatively comfortable victory.
The first quarter of this game was truly atrocious, there’s no getting around it. The Blazers, who have regularly gotten off to hot starts throughout the season—including during their significant losing stretch—couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn in the early going, falling behind by double-digits. In addition to poor shooting, Portland committed eight turnovers in the frame, and 21 on the game.
However, the Grizzlies didn’t exactly take advantage of Portland’s misfortunes, as they didn’t fare much better, leading 18-17 after the first after a 13-3 Blazers run to close out the quarter. The two teams combined to go 2-12 from distance in the first period.
The turning point in this game came when Portland turned to their subs. After a lackluster start from the starting lineup, Meyers Leonard checked in and provided an immediate spark to end the first quarter—dunking off of an errant Marc Gasol baseline pass and knocking down a big three less than thirty seconds later to key a 9-0 run.
Leonard finished with 12 points and eight rebounds, and the team also got big performances from Zach Collins (10 points, seven rebounds) and Evan Turner (six points, five rebounds, four assists). Both Seth Curry and Nik Stauskas hit three shots each, and combined for 14 points.
The bench also picked up from Lillard’s big third quarter to extend the lead early in the fourth, effectively putting the game out of reach, despite a few late buckets from the Memphis starters. Overall, Portland’s second-unit outscored the Grizzlies bench 44-14 on the night.
While the Blazers struggled offensively early, the Grizzlies struggled shooting for just about the entire game. While Conley got hot in the final minutes of the first half, as well as the opening minutes of the third quarter, he was just 7-19 from the field overall. Marc Gasol looked dreadful, and was extremely hesitant to shoot. He was 4-13 on the night, and even that was aided by three makes with the game largely out of reach.
Outside of Jaren Jackson Jr., who looked solid on both ends of the floor and finished with 16 points, no other Grizzlies player could find any kind of rhythm for more than a few minutes . Because of this, the team looked disjointed and unsure of themselves on the offensive end of the court, especially their bench players.
The Other Guys
CJ McCollum’s dominance of the Grizzlies came to an end, as he shot just 5-16 for 11 points.
Jusuf Nurkic wasn’t much of a factor either, and finished with eight points and seven rebounds, but only 2-6 shooting in just 21 minutes.
Al-Farouq Aminu was a no-show offensively, but did help contribute to Portland’s effort on the defensive side of the ball.
Maurice Harkless finished with nine points in 22 minutes.
The Trail Blazers remain at home to take on the Utah Jazz on Friday night.