The Portland Trail Blazers are returning from their four-day layoff with a big matchup against the upstart Memphis Grizzlies.
To learn more about the Grizzlies, we spoke with Grizzly Bear Blues contributor Brandon Abraham to discuss tonight’s matchup.
1. Desmond Bane appears to have taken another step in his game this season. How big has he been so far for the Grizzlies?
Abraham: Des has been huge for the Grizzlies again this season. After a rough shooting start, he’s found his stroke in recent games but it’s his ability to get to the rim and score from the mid range that’s made him an even more dangerous offensive weapon. To make things even more difficult for defenders, Des’s playmaking has taken a huge step this season. Small sample size, but he’s nearly doubled his career assist averages as he’s averaging five assists per game this season. Bane being a secondary facilitator helps open up the Grizzlies offense even more and shows off his all around game.
2. What’s the biggest difference between the Grizzlies this year vs. last year?
Abraham: The biggest difference from last year to this year is the experience of the teams bench. While moving on from Kyle Anderson and De’Anthony Melton has been overblown by some in Memphis, the Grizzlies will have games where they miss the duo. John Konchar has slid into Melton’s role with fine production but both rookies in David Roddy and Jake LaRavia will likely have growing pains throughout the season. When fully healthy, Santi Aldama likely shifts to the backup four and he’s already played 206 minutes this season after playing just 360 last season.
3. What’s one thing people should know about the Grizzlies that can’t be found in a box score?
Abraham: Steven Adams’ impact on the game largely goes unnoticed in the traditional box scores but he’s a huge key to the Grizzlies success. His ability to set hard screens and open up driving lanes for Ja makes Ja even scarier than he already is. The open lanes open up the offense and if too much help comes, Ja trusts his teammates to knock down open shots. Adams is an elite rebounder and will create extra possessions for Memphis. Watching him and Nurk battle in the post will be fun.
4. If the Grizzlies were to lose Wednesday, what would be the reason why?
Abraham: If the Grizzlies lose it’ll likely be because of their defense. They’ve been pretty horrendous on that side of the ball with Jaren Jackson Jr. on the sidelines. They give up a ton of points and a bunch of open looks from behind the arc leading to opponents shooting 37.5 percent from deep against them. Portland doesn’t put up a ton of triples, but they’ll have the opportunity to knock some down if they want to against the Grizzlies defense.
5. What’s your prediction for the game?
Abraham: The Grizzlies typically respond well to adversity and will likely come out to prove a point after dropping two straight in Utah against the Jazz. The Grizzlies rarely lost more than back to back games last season. Health matters, and things get tricky if Desmond Bane is unable to play but I ultimately think they turn things around against the Blazers and come away with the win. Portland is still good even with Dame sidelined but I think they’ll miss him for this matchup. National TV Ja will be enough for the Grizzlies to escape Portland with a win.