The Trail Blazers’ current losing streak extended to five games after the Grizzlies delivered a 120-113 defeat on Sunday. The Blazers did not go quietly in this contest, though. Facing a double-digit deficit with four minutes remaining, Portland pulled within three points of Memphis in the final minute of action. In the end, Ja Morant’s 28-point night proved to be enough.
Here is a second look at how the action unfolded.
The Grizzlies opened the contest determined to replicate their success from Friday’s contest. Memphis turned to their breakneck pace and rushed out to a 10-2 lead in just over two minutes. A quick timeout from coach Terry Stotts triggered a three-possession sequence that generated seven points for the Blazers. From there, the action turned into a slog. In the final six minutes of the frame, both teams missed open looks and failed to light up the scoreboard. The Blazers and Grizzlies combined to go 16-of-55 from the field.
In a slight twist, the Blazers tapped Rondae Hollis-Jefferson as the first big off the bench—not Enes Kanter. While Hollis-Jefferson’s production didn’t transfer to the box score, his energy and friskiness was noticeable.
The Grizzlies finished the first frame with a slight 23-20 advantage.
Jonas Valanciunas took center stage in the second quarter. The Grizzlies big fella had his three-point shot working early and often. Valanciunas, who was held scoreless in the first quarter, connected on three shots from distance and finished the frame with 13 points. Fueled by Valanciunas’ boost, the Grizzlies opened up a sturdy and sustainable lead.
Like the first quarter, the Blazers’ offense failed to establish any form of rhythm. Despite failing to string together successful possessions, Portland did a better job of connecting on their shots from distance and focused on getting to the free throw line. The Blazers logged just seven made field goals in the second quarter, but managed to produce 27 points.
Once Valanciunas headed to the bench, Morant heated up. The second-year guard notched eight points in the second quarter—paving the way for the Grizzlies to enter the locker room with a 58-47 lead.
The Blazers’ offense finally found life in the third frame. After a first half that featured just 15 field goals, Portland’s shooters connected on 12 attempts. CJ McCollum led the way for the Blazers, recording 11 points in the third quarter. Unfortunately for Portland, they could not put together enough defensive stops to stay within single digits.
Outside of the typical run of play, the action between the Grizzlies and Blazers turned chippy. McCollum delivered a shoulder to a driving Dillon Brooks that was upgraded to a flagrant foul. Later in the quarter, Brooks and Carmelo Anthony exchanged words that earned them both technicals.
With the temperature dialed up, the Grizzlies finished the quarter with a 12-point edge.
Melo channeled the energy from his exchange with Brooks into nine points in just under three minutes of action—pushing the Blazers within two possessions of the Grizzlies. After an early-quarter timeout, Memphis emerged to deliver a steady stream of baskets.
The Blazers climbed back into the action with under four minutes to go. Starting with a Valanciunas flagrant foul on Jusuf Nurkic, the Blazers started to eat into the Grizzlies’ lead. Offensively, Lillard and McCollum supplied timely three-pointers. Defensively, Robert Covington and Norman Powell secured crucial steals. With under a minute left, the Blazers crawled within a single possession thanks to a three-point play from Nurkic.
Buoyed by a 15-3 run, the Blazers had an opportunity to tie it at 114 with 34.5 seconds left. Morant closed that window by intercepting a misguided pass from Powell. With the clock working in their favor, the Grizzlies did just enough from the free throw line to hold on to a 120-113 victory.
Stay tuned for Kyle Garcia’s extended recap later today.
The Blazers return to action on Tuesday to face the Pacers.