Portland Trail Blazers (32-26) vs. Memphis Grizzlies (29-28)
The Portland Trail Blazers continue their home stretch tonight against the Memphis Grizzlies. The Blazers have only won 1 of their last 6 games, and the 7th seed Mavericks are starting to close the gap. These next few games — especially against Memphis — are going to be crucial for Portland’s season.
Friday, April 23 - 7:00 p.m. PT
How to watch on TV: NBCSNW, NBA League Pass or see games all season on fuboTV
Blazers injuries: Zach Collins (out), Kelvin Blevins (out), Derrick Jones Jr (day to day)
OPPONENT injuries: Jonas Valanciunas (day to day)
SBN Affiliate: Grizzly Bear Blues
What To Watch For
- A close game. It’s what the Blazers do. They seem to play to the level of their opponent. Most likely the game will be close, like the recent games have been. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as Portland is known for being able to finish strong when the game is close. However, that hasn’t been the case in their most recent matchups. Damian Lillard is arguably the most clutch player in the league right now, and it’s likely the Trail Blazers will need that.
- Blazers Defense. The Trail Blazers have had some of the worst defense in the league this year, relying heavily instead on their top tier offense. But as the season continues and the schedule gets harder, that defense is more and more crucial, especially as they match up against teams who are also shooting really well. The good news is that even though Portland hasn’t won the last few games, their defense seems to be improving.
- Memphis Matchup. If you listen to the Dave and Dia podcast, you might have heard us talking about the fact that these two games against Memphis are going to be very telling of how Portland’s season finishes. Tonight and Sunday are crucial games for the Trail Blazers. They need these wins, and they should be able to get them. Memphis is currently the 8th seed and only 2.5 games back from Portland. These games are important.
What Others Are Saying
Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian wrote about the positives from Portland’s loss to the Nuggets:
If there is a silver lining, it’s that Portland played solidly defensively, holding the Nuggets to 33.3% shooting on threes and below their scoring average of 115.7.
“We competed throughout the game, and we put ourselves in a position to win against a good team,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said. “It’s very disappointing to lose this game, but I think we’re playing better basketball.”
Damian Lillard is back after missing 3 games due to injury. Dwight Jaynes of NBC Sports detailed how that may be affecting the guard:
Portland’s offensive stats were very similar to Denver’s, as you might expect in a one-point game. But the Blazers got just 22 points (9-23 from the field) from Damian Lillard, who was seeing his first action in more than a week due to hamstring soreness.
He moved well, but the ball didn’t go in for him – which is not unexpected after time off.
It’s possible, too, he’s still adjusting to the new emphasis away from so many pick-and-rolls, which he says has been the “bread-and-butter” for him and CJ McCollum for several seasons.
The Grizzlies are missing one of their key players due to a concussion. Jonas Valanciunas may or may not be playing against Portland, and he is definitely a difference maker for the team. Jack Williams of Beale St Bears explains:
Once Valanciunas returns, the Grizzlies will form one of the best frontcourts in the NBA with more potential than anybody has seen in recent memory. If the Lithuanian big man doesn’t see a drop-off with his gigantic counterpart back in the game, the Grizzlies will be unstoppable in the paint.
That said, it’s still unclear if he’ll be returning any time in the next couple of games. Grizzlies fans will sleep with their fingers crossed until then.