The Portland Trail Blazers saw their seven-game road trip to come to a disappointing finish on Tuesday night in Memphis—squandering a sixteen-point lead en route to a 120-111 defeat at the hands of the Grizzlies. Memphis got tremendous production from their bench, as well as a career-high 40 points from Mike Conley. Portland was lead by the 27 points of CJ McCollum, but committed an astonishing 20 turnovers on the night in the loss.
After the Blazers ended the first quarter with a 33-20 lead, and extended that lead to as many as sixteen in the second quarter, the Grizzlies roared back by outscoring Portland 41-30 in the frame to trail by only two points at the half. The teams were neck-and-neck through the third quarter, but Conley came alive in the fourth, as Memphis outscored the Blazers 38-23 in the final stanza to secure the unlikely victory. The Grizzlies didn’t take their first lead until there were only four minutes remaining in the game.
While Portland lost the war, they certainly won the first battle—soaring out of the gates on an early 22-7 run to start the game, while scoring the night’s first eight points. The Blazers took advantage of multiple mismatches in the paint—most notably Maurice Harkless on Conley—and it looked like they would cruise to victory.
They also displayed tremendous ball movement, which lead to solid looks both from the perimeter and down low. In fact, they racked up 10 assists on their first 11 made field goals, and 11 dimes on their 13 total makes in the frame. They shot 62% overall from the field in the quarter, including 4-7 from three-point land. It’s hard to imagine them getting off to a better start in a game some worried would serve as a proverbial “trap” against an inferior opponent, particularly at the end of of an extended trip.
Grizz Claw Back
That trap was set in the second quarter, however, as the Blazers started to get sloppy with the ball—committing a plethora of live-ball turnovers which disrupted their offensive rhythm. The Blazers’ struggles coincided with the Grizzlies going to their second unit. Delon Wright and Joakim Noah in particular proved to have a significant impact on the game, at both ends of the court, in addition to a much-need energy boost off the bench. Wright scored 25 points on 26 minutes for the game, going 9-13 from the field and getting to the rim with ease. Noah stuffed the stat sheet as well, finishing with 9 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. Both players each recorded two of the team’s 11 total steals.
In addition, Memphis started hitting the long ball after a rough start from distance. Conley (6-7) and Avery Bradley (3-8) were dialed in from long range, as the team finished at 48% from three-point land. The Grizzlies used high screens from their bigs to free up shooters, and the Blazers had trouble closing the gaps defensively.
Conley Catches Fire
Conley, who appeared to turn his ankle early in the fourth quarter (and briefly left the game), simply took over the final minutes of the contest. He scored 19 points over the final eight minutes, in a variety of ways. He navigated screens masterfully to get to the the mid-range, and knocked down two monster threes—the second of which also drew a foul—in a back-breaking stretch with under two-and-a-half minutes remaining. In addition, he got to the line and made his free throws, en route to a career-high 40 points.
Damian Lillard went for 24 and eight assists, but also recorded five turnovers, and was just 8-18 from the field.
McCollum’s 27 came on 9-13 shooting, including 3-5 from distance.
Jusuf Nurkic flirted with another triple-double, scoring six points in addition to 10 rebounds, nine assists and two blocks.
Al-Farouq Aminu had seven points on 3-7 shooting, and missed a couple of much-need triples in the final minutes. Uncharacteristically, he only pulled down a single rebound.
Harkless had another solid outing, scoring 20 points along with six rebounds.
Jake Layman (eight points, six rebounds) and Enes Kanter (11 points) led the bench production, while Rodney Hood (1-5 shooting) came crashing back to earth after his brilliant performance against the Hornets.
Evan Turner returned from a five-game absence and had five rebounds and three turnovers in 10 minutes, missing his only shot attempt.
The Blazers return home to face the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday night, looking to avoid the season series sweep.