The Grizz Keep Grinding for Game 3 Win
*Photo via AP
(5) Memphis Grizzlies @ (4) Portland Trailblazers (MEM leads 2-0)
Moda Center, Portland
MEM – Conley, Allen – IN; Udrih – OUT
POR – Batum, Afflalo, Kaman – IN; Matthews – OUT
Pregame: The Moda Center in Portland was rocking almost as much as the city used to in the early 2000s at the Rose Garden. However, once the game started, those fans were sitting on their hands, just waiting for something to cheer about. Those fans desperately wanted a win so that their team, who trails 0-2 in the series, could get on the board. As they know, in NBA history, of the teams that have gone down 0-3 in a series, have never come back to win. This was an absolute must win for the Trailblazers.
Portland seemed to be a bit frantic to start off the game, with a few errant shots, and Aldridge missing badly on two open jumpers. Memphis gave us more of the same; their hard-nosed defense was now halting entry passes to the post, totally disrupting the Portland. Courtney Lee came out on fire scoring 10 points in the first seven minutes, leading the Grizzlies to an early 18-7 advantage. Portland fought back slicing the lead to five at the end of the first quarter, 24-19.
The game got a little more fluid to start the second quarter, seeing some more up and down play from both sides. Just as the Blazers started to see a run building, Memphis’ offense picked up, and were able to stretch the lead to 40-28. Portland started to catch fire on the offensive end, and it seemed like they were primed to make a run. But basketball is played on both ends of the floor. Portland’s terrible defense was allowing Memphis to score on nearly every position, allowing the lead to 13, 62-49. Damian Lillard was finally getting on track in this series, tallying 14 points in the first half.
The start of the third saw more of the same – Memphis stretched the lead to 14 with Zach Randolph’s strong back to the basket presence. Every whistle against the home team was met with a loud frustrated groan from the crowd. Towards the end of the third, Mike Conley, while going for a steal, took an elbow to the eye socket from ball handler, C.J. McCullom. He was taken to a local medical facility and will be reevaluated tomorrow, as reported by ESPN sideline reporter Chris Brousard. He was ruled out for the remainder of the contest. Moving into the fourth, a critical quarter, Portland needed to overcome a 85-75 deficit.
Portland got themselves back into the game, cutting the lead to eight with sevent minutes remaining. After letting the Grizzlies take a double digit lead once more, Aron Afflalo finally got into the series, hitting a big three to cut the lead to seven with four minutes to play. Adding an LaMarcus Aldridge free throw and a Nicolas Batum three pointer, on a beautiful Lillard dish, the lead was cut to three. Memphis responded with a quick bucket and two Randolph free throws. Memphis seemed to put the game away when Lillard missed a triple. Courtney Lee corralled the rebound and immediately found a streaking Tony Allen on the outlet for a fast-break dunk. The lead was nine with one minute and 14 seconds to play. After a free throw game, Memphis finished off game three with a 115-109 win. The Moda Center crowd never got that opportunity to erupt.
C.J. McCollum revived his play after his ‘Dud of the Game’ performance in game two: he ended game three with 26 points on eight of 14 shooting.
Lillard had 22 points and nine assists.
Memorable Moment: Courtney Lee picked up a rebound, tossed it over to Tony Allen all alone on the other side of the court. Allen dunked it amiss the hushed Portland crowd, and sealed the win for Memphis.
Stud of the Game: Marc Gasol. 25 points, 13 of 14 free throws, seven boards, four assists, three blocks. Stat stuffer extraordinaire. Defensive leader of this team. This man is going to make a ton of money in the off-season.
Dud of the Game: Terry Stots. The Portland coach had no idea how to stop Memphis. Even with the absence of Wes Matthews, Stots needs to have some defensive scheme. Game three was proof that he either has a weakness in his defensive sets, or the players aren’t responding to him. I hope, for his sake, it's his sets that is bringing the deficiency; he can always bring in a defensive specialist to address that.
Stat of the Game: Portland had four players who scored over 20 points: Batum (27), McCollum (26), Lillard (22), and Aldridge (21). Those four accounted for 67 of the teams 77 shots. The rest of the team shot 4 for 10.
With the Blazers trailing 3-0, they will need an absolutely herculean effort from both LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard in game four to avoid the sweep. Memphis looks so tight and cohesive on both ends of the floor with Marc Gasol leading the way. If Mike Conley has such an injury that he’s unable to return to the series (doesn’t seem likely), then Portland may have a real shot to win a couple games. Apart from that, the Grizzlies have earned everything they’ve achieved thus far, and all signs point to them continuing their domination.
Game four is Monday night, 10:30 ET on TNT at the Moda Center in Portland.