Portland Trail Blazers (1-2) vs Memphis Grizzlies (2-1)
The Portland Trail Blazers play their fourth game of the season against the Memphis Grizzlies at home. The Blazers are coming off of a 30 point loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday and hope to turn around their luck against the young Grizzlies. The Grizzlies come into this game after their first loss of the season against the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday, looking to get back into the winning column.
Wednesday, October 27 - 7:00 p.m. PT
How to watch on TV: ESPN, ROOT Sports, NBA League Pass
Blazers injuries: Norman Powell (out), Tony Snell (out)
Grizzlies injuries: Dillon Brooks (out)
SBN Affiliate: Grizzly Bear Blues
What To Watch For
- Match-up of star guards. The start of the season for respective stars Damian Lillard and Ja Morant have been in direct antithesis of each other. Ja Morant has been on fire, scoring 35 points per game so far this year, leading the league early in this season. Damian Lillard, on the other hand, has been uncharacteristically cold. He has averaged just 17 points per game so far on 38% shooting from the field and 8% from three. Those numbers are unlikely to continue due to what we know about Lillard, but the question at the top of all Blazer fans’ minds is when exactly will it end? Hopefully Lillard will be able to put it back together against the hottest player in the league at the moment.
- Ball security. The Blazers had 30 turnovers on their way to being routed by the Clippers on Monday, the most turnovers by a single team since 2004. That number will almost definitely not be replicated, but for a Blazers team that has finished top three in least turnovers per game for the last two seasons, the game could not have been more out of character. Was the game a fluke, or was it an extreme indicator of a shift in the Blazers offense this coming season?
- Three point shooting. The Blazers are shooting threes at about the same rate as their second in the league finish last year with about 41 attempts per game. However, the main difference between this year and last year has been percentage. Last year the Blazers shot 38.5% from three, as opposed to just 33.6% this year, which is the difference between 6th in the league last year and 18th this season. Some of that drop is accounted for by Damian Lillard being unable to find his shot early in this year, but some of it has been the supporting cast as well. Blazers coach Chauncey Billups has talked about not shooting as many threes this year, instead focusing on the quality of those looks, but so far the Blazers have been unable to hit the quality shots.
What Others Are Saying
Joe Mullinax of Grizzly Bear Blues talks about the incredible start to the season that Ja Morant is currently enjoying.
Through three games he is at the top of the NBA in scoring at 35 points per game, shooting an absurd 58% from the field while racking up 8 assists per contest as well. His 40 point-10 assist masterclass performance against the Los Angeles Lakers put him in rarified air - being the best player on the floor in a game that had both LeBron James and Anthony Davis playing in it. He has (in an admittedly small sample size) found his long-range shooting stroke, currently converting 44.4% of his attempts from beyond the arc, and while he still has room to grow as a defender he has shown notable effort toward improving his “stocks” contributions, posting current career highs (again, small sample size) in steals and blocks per 100 possessions according to basketball-reference.
Evan Barnes of Commercial Appeal talked about second year player Desmond Bane’s improvements as he transforms into more than just a three point shooter.
Bane finished as the third-leading scorer in Las Vegas (24.0 points in two games) and averaged nine 2-point attempts to 6.5 threes. It carried over in preseason when Bane took 26 2-point shots to 28 3-pointers, and in the season opener, when he took a career-high 10 2-point attempts.
Through three games, he’s the Grizzlies’ second leading scorer (19.3 points per game) behind Ja Morant and a growing threat to drive to the basket as much as pull up for threes. It’s also made helped the Grizzlies be second in the NBA in offensive rating (121.3 points per 100 possessions).
Jacob Ellerbee of Beale Street Bears noted that the Grizzlies bench has been a weakness rather than a strength early in this year, something that was not the case for the last few seasons.
Morant and the starters and playing very well, but is the team relying too heavily on the starters to carry the team night-in and night-out?
The Memphis Grizzlies have one glaringly obvious flaw that will make it hard to compete in the Western Conference if not corrected
The glare I’m talking about is the poor play from the bench. For the past few seasons, the Grizzlies have prided themselves on stellar bench play. Our depth has allowed us to play all the way down to the eleventh or twelfth man on the bench.
Some of this falls on Head Coach Taylor Jenkins and his affinity for trying never-before-used lineup combinations and lineups that just leave you wondering if the coach is relying too heavily on analytics.