Portland Trail Blazers (12-18) vs. Memphis Grizzlies (19-11)
The Portland Trail Blazers head into their matchup in Memphis against the Grizzlies coming off a win against the Charlotte Hornets. The Blazers have finally broken their losing streak as they head out for a short road trip. Portland last matched up against Memphis just four days ago on the 15th. That game didn’t end well for the Blazers, even with Memphis struggling with injuries. Memphis is playing well, but can Portland ride the wave of momentum from their win against Charlotte and pull off another one?
Sunday, December 19 - 3:00 p.m. PT
How to watch on TV: ROOT Sports, NBA League Pass
Blazers injuries: CJ McCollum (out), Cody Zeller (out), Dennis Smith Jr. (probable)
Grizzlies injuries: Ja Morant (out), Sam Merrill (out), Brandon Clarke (out), Ziaire Williams (out), Santi Aldama (out)
SBN Affiliate: Grizzly Bear Blues
What To Watch For
- Memphis Defense. While the Trail Blazers have struggled with defense, the Grizzlies are playing it well. It’s a tough matchup for Portland when their opponents are good defenders, which is going to be an issue with Memphis. The Blazers are going to need to find ways around it, and also play good defense of their own.
- Dame Time. Damian Lillard had his best game of the season on Friday against the Hornets. After a slow start to the season, Rip City has been holding their collective breath waiting for Lillard to be back on his A-game, and it seems as though this may be the beginning of the return of Dame. Seems like it couldn’t have come at a better time.
- Road Win. The Trail Blazers really need a road win. While their home record hasn’t been as bad, Portland’s wins on the road have been a struggle. Another win on the road, especially coming off a win at home, would be a step in the right direction.
What Others Are Saying
Memphis Grizzlies star player, Ja Morant, has been out for a bit, but the Grizzlies have held their own despite his absence. Nathan Chester of Grizzly Bear Blues explains.
The return of Ja Morant will also help the Grizzlies solidify the nirvana that they have reached on the offensive end of the court. Even in his absence, they have still managed to remain at 5th in offensive efficiency (108.8). While the Grizzlies can’t conceivably play much better than they are currently, adding a potentially All-NBA caliber point guard back into the mix will help solidify their standing.
Desmond Bane’s contribution to his team is making a strong case for Most Improved Player in the NBA this year according to Evan Barnes of Yahoo Sports.
Morant has used Twitter to champion Bane’s credentials as Most Improved Player. Brooks, who took Bane under his wing last season, challenged him to elevate his game during Morant’s absence.
“He’s ready for the moment. We made trades that opened up some more shots for him and he’s relishing in the moment,” Brooks said. “He’s locked in on automatic. Every shot he takes he thinks is going in.”
No Grizzlies player has won Most Improved Player, but as the team sits fourth in the Western Conference, it’s hard to miss what Bane has done.
Damian Lillard struggled to start the season, but after a season high of 43 points, he had a pretty clear message for the media, according to Erik Garcia Gundersen of the Associated Press.
After the game, however, Lillard told reporters he has felt disrespected by the media amid his shooting struggles. The All-Star guard came into the game with the worst shooting numbers of his career, shooting under 40% from the field and barely over 30% from the 3-point line, before breaking out on Friday night.
“I’ve never not given any of you guys time,” Lillard said in response to question about whether he was happy with the win. “And when our team is going through it and I’m in a little bit of a struggle, I see certain people not giving me the same respect. So that’s why I’m a little irritated in here. But with my team, I’m happy with what we did. That’s that. I still come in here and give that same time, but I don’t appreciate it. It’ll be handled that way going forward.”