Lillard,Bench Key in Portland Victory to Stave off Elimination
*Photo via USA Today
(5) Memphis Grizzlies @ (4) Portland Trailblazers (MEM leads 3-0)
Moda Center, Portland
MEM – Allen, Udrih – IN; Conley – OUT
POR – Batum, Afflalo, Kaman – IN; Matthews – OUT
A sea of red filled the Moda Center in Rip City to cheer on the Blazers. If their cheers succeeded, the Blazers would avoid the sweep in their first round series with the Memphis Grizzlies, who led the series 3-0. With Mike Conley out of the game, Portland would have their best change to win a game.
To open the game, Conley’s replacement, Nick Calathes, hit two open three pointers. Not a great start for Portland. Memphis jumped out to a quick 12-4 start on a 20 footer from Marc Gasol. Damian Lillard seemed to have a bit of a swagger back, as he slithered into the lane, gave a little Dream Shake, and put a layup in. The return of Beno Udrih was most welcome for the Grizzlies, but the Blazers started to hit shots, leading Portland to take a 27-22 lead at the end of the first.
The game swung in runs of five or six through the first half of the second quarter. A tight game ensued from there on out. Lillard’s quickness allowed him to constantly get to the rim. Portland’s Myers Leonard started to emerge with some bench points, Portland really to show some offensive and defensive toughness. C.J. McCollum hit an open three to move the Portland lead to 51-42. Portland took a seven point lead into the break.
The Grizzlies roared back in the third to take a 58-57 lead with strong big man play from Gasol and Randolph. Both teams brought energy into the next segment, though the scoreboard didn’t show it. Portland held tight as Memphis started to clamp down on defense. Lillard was finding his form, as his 20 foot jumper cut the lead Memphis lead to five. The end of the third quarter brought a reversal in fortunes, where Memphis went from trailing by seven, to leading by seven, and the Blazers were one quarter away from elimination.
Portland came roaring back from 10 down in the fourth, and tied the game on a nifty C.J. McCollum layup. Lillard drained a three to pull Portland ahead by one with two minutes to go. After a Memphis bucket, Lillard drilled a second straight three to put Portland up three. Randolph threw up a prater with 47 seconds left, and say Memphis in a tough spot. After a silly Tony Allen foul, Batum hit one of two freethrows to extend the team’s lead to four. After a couple lay-up to free-throws trade-offs, Courtney Lee missed a three off of a curl and allowed Portland to win 99-92.
Marc Gasol paced the Grizzlies with 21 points, 7 boards, and 6 assists in the losing effort.
Stud of the Game: Damian Lillard – 32 points on 12-23 shooting, with 7 assists. Finally found his groove.
Dud of the Game: Aaron Afflalo – 0 points on 0-5 shooting. Even with the win, if Portland wants to do the unthinkable and come back in this series, they will need Afflalo to make shots. Any shots. Even one shot.
Stat of the Game: The Portland bench has 31 points on a sizzling 13 for 18 shooting. If McCollum and Leonard continue this, Memphis should worry a tad.
Game five is Wednesday night, Time is TBD at the Grind House (FedEx Forum) in Memphis