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Portland Trail Blazers vs. Memphis Grizzlies Preview

The Blazers need a win badly, but it won't be easy against the confident Grizzlies.

Houston Rockets v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Portland Trail Blazers (11-17) vs. Memphis Grizzlies (17-11)

The Portland Trail Blazers desperately need a win. Losers of nine out of their last ten, including losses in their last four home games, things are looking a bit grim at One Center Court. It’s at least somewhat encouraging that the last two games have been reasonably close down the stretch. Most recently the Blazers couldn’t close the deal in a 111-107 overtime loss to the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday. No rest then as the surging Memphis Grizzlies pull in to town.

The Grizzly fortunes are almost exactly opposite of the Blazers lately, winning eight of their last nine in spite of dealing with significant absences. Most notably, Ja Morant has missed those last nine games and Memphis hasn’t lost a beat. Last time out the Grizzlies easily handled the Philadelphia 76ers by a score of 126-91.

Wednesday, December 15 - 7:00 p.m. PT
How to watch on TV: ROOT Sports, NBA League Pass
Blazers injuries: CJ McCollum (out), Cody Zeller (out), Greg Brown (day to day)
Grizzlies injuries: Ziaire Williams (out), Brandon Clarke (out), Ja Morant (out), Sam Merrill (out)
SBN Affiliate: Grizzly Bear Blues

What To Watch For

  • Clean the glass. Memphis is the best in the business right now at pulling down offensive boards. Over the last nine games, 34.9% of opportunities for an offensive rebound have been pulled down by the Grizzlies, tops in the NBA over that period. Compare that to 24.1% for the Blazers over their last nine games. That kind of disparity won’t get it done against Memphis.
  • Balanced everything. The shorthanded Grizzlies are getting contributions from nearly everybody on the team. Against the 76ers on Monday, Memphis had 13 players scoring from the field, eight players shooting at least 50%, nine players with at least one made three, ten players with at least one assist, seven players with at least one offensive rebound and nine players with at least one steal. This team is confident up and down the roster, so it will take a complete game from the Blazers to match what the Grizzlies are likely to demonstrate.
  • Finish strong. The Blazers have had a solid chance to win their last two games against Minnesota and the Suns, but came up empty both times. With Dame Time mostly absent, the Blazers need someone to step up and make some plays. Until Portland figures out how to close out games that losing streak is likely to continue.

What Others Are Saying

Ja Morant not available? No problem. Since this report by Stuart Hodge of Sky Sports the Grizzlies have added three more wins to go 8-1 over the last nine without Ja in the lineup.

The most remarkable aspect of the five-game run was the fact the team was never behind on the scoreboard. That fact means the Grizzlies, amazingly, are only the second team in the last 25 NBA seasons to win five straight games without ever trailing (including ties after 0-0). And only once during the run were they tied after 0-0 during the streak and that came on Monday night against the Heat when the two teams were tied 2-2 at the beginning of the game.

Memphis is a small market team like the Blazers, but unlike the Blazers everything for them is looking quite rosy. Joe Mullinax of Grizzly Bears Blues looks at ZBo’s retirement ceremony and reflects on how the Grizzlies are building things the right way.

How do you do that without the creature comforts of other places, or the major metropolitan living that almost every city in the NBA provides more than Memphis?

You prioritize the health of your young big man over immediate winning, or good public relations when his recovery takes longer than perhaps it should. You bring in prospects close with your #2 selection in the 2019 Draft from his time at Murray State, giving them opportunity to earn their NBA way via the Memphis Hustle G-League squad (which, by the way, Shaq Buchanan is very much taking advantage of). You invest time and energy in to relationships, making it known that their presence on the roster goes beyond just what they can do physically. Their input on social issues, on ways to make Memphis better, on growing the game for all and using their platform for positive change...every bit of them matters. And it’s not forced. It’s organic. Real.

Mark Giannotto of the Memphis Commercial Appeal has more on the Randolph’s jersey retirement and what he has meant to Memphis basketball.

It was, in every sense, a definitively Memphis moment, occasionally emotional but mostly joyous and triumphant and a rollicking reminder of how much fun Randolph helped to orchestrate with every jab step, mean mug, fadeaway and baby hook. This was as much a tribute to what he and his teams created for the Grizzlies and this community. To a time that will always be remembered as when Memphis really, truly fell in love with NBA basketball, in no small part because it fell in love with Randolph.