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Portland Trail Blazers at Memphis Grizzlies Preview

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With Memphis in Tank Mode, the short-handed Blazers need to take advantage.

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NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Denver Nuggets Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers (46-28) vs. Memphis Grizzlies (20-54)

Wednesday, March 28th - 5:00 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: Maurice Harkless (out), Damian Lillard (out)
Grizzlies injuries: Andrew Harrison (questionable), Tyreke Evans (out), Mike Conley (out)
How to watch on TV: NBCSNW, NBA League Pass (outside of Portland)
How to stream: Blazers Pass, YouTube Live TV, Playstation Vue, Hulu Live TV, FuboTV, NBA League Pass (outside of Portland)
Radio: 620 AM
SBN Affiliate: Grizzly Bear Blues

The Blazers shoot for a perfect road trip with a victory over the hapless Grizzlies. They’ll have to do it without Moe Harkless and Damian Lillard, though. Harkless will undergo an arthroscopy procedure on his knee Wednesday, while Lillard will be back in Portland for the birth of his son.

Memphis doesn’t win often, but their last outing was a 101-93 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves. Don’t be fooled, though, Memphis has only won two out of their last 25 games. They aren’t good.

Portland won their seventh straight road game against the New Orleans Pelicans Tuesday night. Lillard led the charge with 20 fourth-quarter points in the 107-103 victory. Without the two starters, Portland will need bigger contributions than they’ve gotten lately from the likes of Shabazz Napier and Pat Connaughton.

What to watch for

  • Containing Marc Gasol. Marc Gasol can bring it, like he did against Minnesota: 20 points, 4-7 from three-point range, 10 rebounds, six assists and three blocks. That is a solid night’s work for anyone. With the Grizzlies missing Tyreke Evans and Mike Conley, opponents are free to focus on Gasol. Nevertheless, he’s still putting up solid numbers more often than not. Look for an entertaining battle between Gasol and Jusuf Nurkic.
  • Getting Pat Connaughton on track. Over the past six games Connaughton is shooting 13.6 percent from the field and 7.7 percent from beyond the arc. That’s not good. The Blazers don’t have any illusions the guard is going to single-handedly come off the bench and deliver wins in bunches, but they do need someone to come into games and reliably knock down open shots with the second unit. Connaughton has shown flashes of that ability this year, and come playoff time the Blazers will surely need at least a modest contribution from him. If the Blazers can build a healthy lead early, expect Pat to get plenty of shots up to try to get some confidence back.
  • Avoiding complacency. Even without Lillard and Harkless, there really isn’t a reason for the Blazers to lose this game. Memphis has the second-worst record, scores the least points per game in the NBA and are worse than the Blazers in nearly every statistical category. They do make two more assists per game than Portland, so ... woo-hoo? But seriously, Memphis isn’t good at basketball right now. If the Blazers put in a good shift they should win — handily.

What they’re saying

If you are going to tank, why hold back? After losing by 61, Kent Smith of Golf Digest talks about the tank:

Tanking is not a new phenomenon in the NBA; just this fall, the league passed new reform to curb deliberate losing for the 2019 draft. Has that stopped teams from doing everything in their power to limp to the finish line? Absolutely not. In fact, the case has been made that tanking has never been more prevalent, with almost a third of the league doing their damnedest to lose as much as possible since January. Particularly astonishing, since there’s not a “can’t miss” prospect in this year’s draft.

But, even amongst this wave of failure, give the Memphis Grizzlies props. They just took tanking to a new low.

Ronald Tillery of the USA Today Network looks for a glimmer of hope and finds Wayne Selden:

Memphis is crawling to the end of its regular season with Selden revving up on both ends of the court. The Grizzlies enter Wednesday game against the Portland Trail Blazers having lost 23 of the past 25 games. Selden, though, is averaging 16.4 points on 50-percent shooting, including 44 percent from three-point range, in his last five outings.

He’s scored at least 16 points in five of the last six games, and finished with a team-high 23 points in the Grizzlies’ win against the Timberwolves.

Joe Mullinax of Grizzly Bear Blues is dreaming of the draft. And if you are going to dream, dream big:

So let’s say the Grizzlies do indeed get the opportunity to select in the top-3. And let’s operate under the assumption that the following things occur...

• Tyreke Evans does indeed return (unlikely, but hey, let’s have fun).

• Mike Conley comes back fully healthy.

• Chandler Parsons is able to play 65-ish games at 25 minutes a game.

With all that in mind, here are three players they could realistically take, and three ways to uniquely use them...or the Memphis roster around them.