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Blazers Grind Past Grizz to Keep Streak Alive

Portland overcomes a 44-point effort from All-Star Ja Morant to earn a hard-fought 123-119 victory in Memphis, their fourth straight.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Memphis Grizzlies Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

The Portland Trail Blazers continued their improbable post-trade deadline run on Wednesday night, defeating the Memphis Grizzlies by a final score of 123-119 at the FedEx Forum. The win marked Portland’s fourth straight, and snapped a six-game streak for the Grizzlies in the process, who entered the game with the third best record in the league.

Jusuf Nurkic led the way with a 32-point, eight rebound performance, falling just shy of his eighth consecutive double-double. The big man came up especially clutch down the stretch, as the Blazers fended off a furious second-half rally after leading by double-digits for much of the first half. Anfernee Simons added 31 points and six assists, and was joined by three other teammates in double-figure scoring.

All-Star Ja Morant led all scorers with 44 for the Grizzlies, with almost half of those points coming from the foul line, where he went 21-25 on the night. His backcourt mate Desmond Bane added 30 points as the duo combined for well over half of Memphis’ total offensive production.

For a quarter-by-quarter breakdown, see our Instant Recap. Here’s a look at the key storylines from Wednesday’s action.

Run ‘n Gun

The Blazers took full advantage of the Grizzlies playing on the second night of a back-to-back. Led by newcomer Josh Hart, the team relentlessly pushed the pace in the first half, exploding for 68 points by the halftime break. They were able to accomplish this thanks to the fact that Memphis struggled mightily to put the ball in the basket, going just 40% from the field and 5-13 from distance.

With four capable ball handlers in the starting lineup, Portland was able to grab the rebound and immediately push up the floor against an unset Grizzlies defense. This led to a number of downhill layups, and when that path was cut off, more often than not the team made the right pass to find the open shooter. The Blazers shot 55% from the field and just shy of 50% from three over the first half.

Ja Gets Help

Morant, a dark horse MVP candidate, was lights-out in the first quarter, scoring 20 points in the game’s first frame while attacking the rim. When he wasn’t able to finish, he drew the foul—converting at the line at an electric clip. In fact, his ten free-throw attempts in the first quarter were more than the entire Blazers team shot in the first half—nine.

Morant was able to virtually single-handedly keep his team afloat while the Blazers relied on a much more balanced effort, leading by as many as 14 and holding an 11-point lead at the intermission. After the break, Bane came alive for the Grizzlies, particularly from distance, giving them another reliable option offensively. 19 of Bane’s 30 points came after halftime, and helped Memphis cut into the Portland lead while the game’s pace slowed. Unable to get out in transition, the Blazer offense stalled for much of the third quarter.

Photo Finish

The game came right down to the wire, and it looked as if the Blazers—greatly overmatched on paper—would finally succumb to the more talented Grizzlies. However, the team turned to Nurkic down the stretch, and the big man delivered. The Bosnian Beast dominated the paint against the formidable Steven Adams, despite playing the final four minutes with five fouls. He scored seven of the team’s final 11 points. Simons connected on a dagger three with 44 seconds remaining to put Portland up five, and Justise Winslow iced the game at the foul line.

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Box Score

The Blazers have a week off for the All-Star break, and will return to the court next Thursday when they host Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors at 7:00 p.m. PT.