The Portland Trail Blazers battled hard in the second game of a grueling back-to-back, but ultimately fell to the Memphis Grizzlies by a final score of 103-93 on Wednesday night. The loss marks Portland’s seventh straight overall, tenth of their last eleven, and sixth consecutive at home, after starting the season 10-1 at Moda Center.
A nightmarish first quarter put the team in an early hole, but they dug themselves out with a tenacious effort in the third quarter. They were unable to carry the momentum to the finish line, as Dillon Brooks and Desmond Bane caught fire from distance late to finish with a combined 45 points. For Memphis, the win is their fourth straight, all with superstar Ja Morant sidelined due to injury. The Grizzlies have now won nine of their last ten games overall and have climbed to fourth in the Western Conference without their fallen comrade.
Portland, still without CJ McCollum—along with a number of reserves—was led by the 25 points from Norman Powell, followed by Anfernee Simons with 22. Damian Lillard logged 38 minutes after playing 47 in Tuesday’s overtime loss to Phoenix, and struggled to find consistency from the field. He finished with 21 points on 6-21 shooting, coming up especially flat in the fourth quarter.
For a quarter-by-quarter breakdown, see Dave Deckard’s Instant Recap.
Here were the key takeaways from Wednesday’s game.
Defense Leads to Offense
The Grizzlies got out to a dreadful start offensively, opening the game 2-11 from the field as the Blazers jumped out to an early advantage. However, ten first quarter turnovers sent Portland’s offense to a screeching halt, and the Grizzlies took full advantage. Memphis netted a ridiculous eight steals in the frame, and pushed the pace up the floor against a lackluster Blazer transition defense.
While the Grizzlies couldn’t buy a shot from beyond the arc, they excelled in both the paint and on the fast break. In the first half, they accounted for 32 paint points and 18 fast break points. Jarren Jackson Jr. was especially effective down low early, while not entirely efficient overall. Kyle Anderson also played a crucial role for Memphis, accounting for three steals while helping keep their offense flowing on the other end of the floor with his ball handling and passing. It looked like the Blazers were in for a long night.
Challenge Changes Momentum
The turning point for Portland came late in the second quarter, trailing by 10 points and looking rather listless. An exasperated Larry Nance Jr. was whistled for a questionable foul, and coach Chauncey Billups went against his philosophy of saving his lone challenge for the fourth quarter. The move paid off, as the call was overturned on appeal and the Blazers finished the half strong. More importantly, the reversal served as an energy boost, both for the team and the crowd.
Portland started the third quarter on fire from distance, highlighted by a rangy circus shot from Lillard and a four-point play from Powell. The team played with a swagger rarely seen this season, and the offensive uptick helped lift up the defensive intensity. The Blazers found themselves leading by 10 by the 3:45 mark of the third, after trailing by eight at the halftime break, and looked primed to snap their lengthy slide.
Grizz Get Last Laugh
Just when it looked like the Blazers had gained momentum for good, Memphis awoke from hibernation to come roaring back beginning late in the third quarter. The boat race was on by the fourth. Bane and Brooks suddenly caught fire from distance, after the Grizzlies struggled mightily from beyond the arc in the first three quarters of the game.
The onslaught hit Portland like a hurricane, zapping the arena of the energy built up just minutes earlier. The Blazers’ offense went ice cold, and they were held to just 21 points in the fourth quarter, after scoring 35 in the third. Lillard particularly struggled, even missing a pair of lay-ups. Without McCollum, the team simply lacked another true primary scorer. Simons did his best, as did Powell, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the Grizzlies’ sweet shooting on the other end.
The Blazers host the Charlotte Hornets on Friday night at 7 p.m. PT, before embarking on a brief two-game road trip.