Series Preview: Portland Trail Blazers vs. Memphis Grizzlies
*Photo via AP
(4) Portland Trailblazers vs. (5) Memphis Grizzlies
One of the rare times that the lower seeded team will have the home-court advantage, this is even though the Trailblazers won the Midwest Division. This series could be the worst basketball we see in playoffs, as both of these teams have a bevy of injuries. Portland will be without Wesley Matthews, who knows when or if Nicolas Batum and Aaron Afflalo are coming back. Memphis will need Mike Conley and Tony Allen to come back strong. Whichever team can get the majority of their main guys on the floor at the same time, wins.
Regular season series (Grizzlies lead 4-0)
MEM vs. POR 112-99
POR vs. MEM 98-102
MEM vs. POR 98-92
POR vs. MEM 97-86
(4) Portland Trailblazers
Biggest Advantage: Speed and quickness. If Portland is to advance past this series, Damian Lillard will have to be the same superstar that he was in the Houston series last playoffs. The Lillard-Aldridge pick and roll will need to be reminiscent of Stockton-Malone.
Biggest Weaknesses: Perimeter Defense. With their best perimeter defenseman, Matthews, out for the season, and their two next best defenders, Afflalo and Batum, questionable, Memphis will need to find a way to deal with Mike Conley, while not always double-teaming Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol in the paint.
X-factor: Superstar duo, Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge. Portland will need a herculean effort from their stars to knock off Memphis, on both sides of the ball.
(5) Memphis Grizzlies
Biggest Advantage: Defense, Defense, Defense. Memphis has the 4th best defensive efficiency rating in the NBA. With reigning Defensive Player of the Year Marc Gasol anchoring the paint, and perimeter stud Tony Allen (if he comes back) pestering the outside, Memphis should be able to lockdown on Portland’s injury-ridden lineup.
Biggest Weaknesses: Go-to scorers. Memphis is very much the ‘mini-Spurs’ meaning they epitomize the meaning of ‘team.’ Because of this, they don’t have a player they can throw the ball to and say ‘go to work.’ In a tight game, Memphis will be reliant on that defense to get stop after stop, while Portland can toss the ball into Aldridge or let Lillard run rampant.
X-factor: Tempo. If Memphis slows the game down, keeping it in the 80-90 points per game, they will be in great shape. Their hard-nose physical style play will wear Portland down. If the games start to get up into triple digits, watch for Memphis to falter towards the end of games.
Game 1 – Sunday April 19th, Portland at Memphis, 8:00 PM, TNT
Game 2 – Wednesday April 22nd, Portland at Memphis, 8:00 PM, TNT
Game 3 – Saturday April 25th, Memphis at Portland, 10:30 PM, ESPN
Game 4 – Monday April 27th, Memphis at Portland, 10:30 PM, TNT
Game 5* - Wednesday April 29th, Portland at Memphis, TBD
Game 6* - Friday May 1st, Memphis at Portland, TBD
Game 7* - Sunday May 3rd, Portland at Memphis, TBD
* = if necessary
All times are Eastern
Prediction: Injuries are the stars of this series. Right now, Portland has significantly more question marks than Memphis, giving Memphis the edge in a possibly sloppy series.
Memphis wins (4-2)