The Portland Trail Blazers went into the Moda Center Sunday night hoping for a second straight win against the Memphis Grizzlies. Despite several hot streaks and 27 points from Jerami Grant, the Blazers still fell 112-100.
If you missed the game, you can find our quarter-by-quarter recap here. After you’ve heard that story, here are a few key observations from the action.
It’s nearly inevitable that a young team with shooting issues will have a night like Portland did tonight. At the start of both halves, they came out on fire at the three-point arc. Jerami Grant, Shaedon Sharpe, Malcolm Brogdon, Matisse Thybulle, and Toumari Camara all hit two or more triples tonight. Many of those came during early runs.
Given positive feedback from the twine, the Blazers then went loco. They attempted 45 threes, a full 50% more than their average of 30.3 coming into this game. Despite shooting approximately 100% during the first three minutes of each half, they finished only 14-45, 31.1%, for the game.
Obviously, Portland needs better shooters overall. They got many of those attempts because Memphis was content to let them fire away. Until that happens, they still need to be selective about the shots they take. A car that goes 45 will also go 75, but that doesn’t mean that flooring it is the right answer.
Deandre Ayton halfway disappeared during Friday night’s game versus Memphis. Aside from 11 rebounds—which are his almost by default on this team—Ayton was relegated to trying to erase his teammates’ mistakes. That’s not how they got their winning streak going. It’s not how they got a happy and motivated Deandre Ayton either. Again...young team, distraction prone...I get it. But feed the big guy, man. You won’t win without him.
Add only 11 minutes of play from an injured Robert Williams III and the center story doesn’t get any better.
Shaedon Sharpe was the leader on Friday night, but Jerami Grant took over the reins in this one. He scored early and often, amassing 27 points on 10-22 shooting. That was the good news. The bad news was his 4-13 three-point performance and a general lack of help on defense. Portland’s defensive woes tonight can’t be pinned on Jerami, but they need leadership on both ends of the floor. That includes selling out for the team defensively and, well, maybe shot selection.
Memphis shot 13-32, 40.6%, from the three-point arc themselves in this game. That’s not a great recommendation for Portland’s defense. But paint patrolling was the weak spot from the jump, pretty much, and you could see trouble coming like a train barreling down a tunnel. It’s not so much the 52-point aggregate. The Blazers have given up more. It was the ease, the slow and constant leak, that doomed this effort. When the Grizz needed to, they always found a way into the lane, usually via simple screen and rolls. Once there, it was a layup, a foul, or a kick-out for an open three, depending on how Portland reacted. The Blazers forced turnovers too, but if they didn’t, it was big trouble.
Portland only scored 34 in the lane themselves. They attempted only 15 free throws total, so it’s not like they were getting to the line off drives either.
Toumari Camara looked good off the bench tonight: 3-5 shooting, 2-3 from distance, 8 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, and a steal in 23 minutes. Jabari Walker and Skylar Mays fell flat. Injuries to Scoot Henderson and Anfernee Simons might be making the starting five look more stable, as Brogdon and Thybulle bring veteran savvy to the group. It’s sure draining Portland’s reserve corps, though. The Blazers need every bench player to have a good night if they’re going to look decent. That didn’t happen tonight.
At the end of the day, the Grizzlies didn’t want to walk away with their seventh loss of the year, their second straight to a team they should outclass. Even when they got behind, you could see the “Not Today” in their stride. Portland doesn’t have that yet, and that’s fine. Hand it to Memphis. They did what they needed and wanted to do.
Stay tuned for extended analysis of the game, coming soon!
The Blazers will travel to California to face the the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night, with a 7:00 game start.