The Portland Trail Blazers shook off a lackadaisical first half with a third quarter explosion to defeat the Memphis Grizzlies 116-96 on Wednesday night. The victory comes on the heels of a 30-point blowout loss to the Los Angeles Clippers just two days prior, and pushes the team to a 2-2 record on the young season. The Grizzlies were outscored 65-39 in the second half after leading by six at the break.
CJ McCollum once again led the Blazers in scoring, as he has in each of Portland’s four games this season. McCollum finished with 25, while his backcourt mate Damian Lillard was finally able to find an offensive rhythm to end the night with a season-high 20 points. The duo were joined in double-figure scoring by Jusuf Nurkic (17), Anfernee Simons (17), and Cody Zeller (10).
Desmond Bane paced the Grizzlies with 19 points, of which only four came in the second half. Memphis star Ja Morant, who entered the night as the league’s leading scorer at 35 points per game, was held to just 17 points on 5-11 shooting—by far his lowest output of the season— while also committing a season-high nine turnovers.
For a quarter-by-quarter rundown of the action, see our Instant Recap.
Here’s a look at the key storylines from tonight’s victory:
Second Half Spark
Portland struggled to get much going on either end of the floor in the opening half, but were able to stay in the game because the Grizzlies didn’t capitalize enough on the defensive deficiencies. With the Blazers giving far too much space to Memphis’ shooters, only Bane was really able to take advantage of the open looks. Additionally, the Grizzlies failed to convert on a number of second chance opportunities. Portland eventually turned to a zone defense towards the end of the half, finding minimal success, and the Grizzlies took a six-point lead into the locker room.
The Blazers looked like a different team coming out of the break, immediately embarking on a 6-0 run to tie the game. The pick-n-roll duo of Lillard and Nurkic proved lethal, with the big man getting a pair of easy looks to fire up both the team and crowd. Lillard—who was 2-11 from the field in the first half—then caught fire from distance, hitting a trio of threes in the period to break out of a season-long slump. When the Grizzlies brought more pressure, he was able to find cutting teammates for easy baskets at the rim.
The offensive uptick seemed to energize the defense as well, as Portland started getting more deflections and forcing turnovers. When the dust settled, the Grizzlies were outscored 36-20 in the third quarter, and the Blazers had comfortably seized all momentum.
While the starters spurred the comeback, Portland’s second unit snatched the baton and put the game away. Simons stepped up with 14 points in the first half, but it was the newly acquired duo of Zeller and Larry Nance Jr. who shone after halftime. Setting the tone defensively, the pair also took control of the boards against a smaller Grizzlies lineup due to foul trouble, combining for twelve total and eight offensive rebounds.
Nance especially stood out for his movement on the offensive end, giving Portland’s guards a passing outlet and finishing at the rim. He showcased his own passing vision as well, and finished with eight points and five rebounds in what was easily his best game in a Blazer uniform. Dennis Smith Jr. got extended run with Nassir Little once again in the starting lineup due to Norman Powell’s injury. The preseason standout dished out five assists and knocked down one of just two field goal attempts in 19 minutes of action, working well alongside Simons and McCollum in the backcourt.
Climbing the Ranks
McCollum passed the late, great Jerome Kersey to become the sixth-leading scorer in Blazers franchise history with 10,078 points by the final buzzer. Next up is another revered Portland legend, Cliff Robinson, who sits 327 points ahead of him at the fifth spot.
The Blazers will look to seek revenge on the Clippers on Friday night in Portland, with tip-off scheduled for 7:00 p.m. PT. They’ll then hit the road for a three-game trip beginning Sunday in Charlotte.