Memphis Shows Toughness, Sends Portland Home With Game 5 Win.
*Photo via Getty Images
(4) Portland Trailblazers @ (5) Memphis Grizzlies (MEM leads 3-1)
FedEx Forum, Memphis
MEM – Allen, Udrih – IN; Conley – OUT
POR – Batum, Afflalo, Kaman – IN; Matthews – OUT
A sea of yellow towels being waved by the fans filled the FedEx Forum for game five of the first round playoff series between the Memphis Grizzlies and the Portland Trailblazers. If Memphis can win tonight’s game, they will eliminate the Blazers and earn the right to play the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Semi-finals. 48 minutes to decide.
Memphis looked like they wanted this game. Zach Randolph and Courtney Lee led Memphis to a quick 10-0 start, as Portland opened with three turnovers and four misses on their first seven possessions.
Portland was finally able to get a couple of buckets to go, led by a sweet little Tony-Parker-esque drive to the rim by Damian Lillard. After a later 3-point-play from Lillard, Portland chopped the lead to five, trailing 18-13. Portland put the pedal down and tied the game 20-20 after the first quarter.
C.J. McCollum, drawing a flagrant foul on Tony Allen, and then draining a three in the next possession, led the Blazers to jump out 28-24 to start the second quarter. Vince Carter swept into the lane and threw down a put-back dunk on a Randolph miss, giving everyone a flash back to 2001. With Carter throwing down another dunk, Memphis took a 46-39 lead into the break.
The third quarter began with mini-runs from both teams – and the game gaining a little more stability around the eight-minute mark, with Memphis leading 58-51. McCollum continued his hot shooting putting in three straight long-balls, to steal the momentum and silence the sea of baby-blue fans.
Memphis got called for a myriad of offensive fouls, and should have been further behind, if not for Tony Allen’s sneaky defense, leading to three third quarter steals. One of those Zach Randolph offensive fouls, led to him shoving Myers Leonard, and receiving a technical foul.
Memphis seemed to be unraveling, but had 12 minutes to get it together to put the finishing touches on Portland’s season, as they entered the fourth quarter with a 68-66 lead.
The start of the fourth saw trading baskets as the playoff intensity really started to become palpable. A layup and a foul from Aldridge brought the Blazers to within one with 7:30 to play. Memphis continued their struggles on the offensive side, unable to convert on many open opportunities, until Nick Calathas took a pass from Randolph on a weak-side cut into the lane and scored.
Suddenly, Jeff Green sparked to life, hitting a 18 footer, and then a driving layup, tacking on the free-throw, pushing Memphis’ lead to 8. A Randolph jumper extended the lead to 10, leading to a Terry Stots time-out for Portland. Memphis’ regained momentum left them only 3:26 away from advancing.
The Grizzlies fan rose to their feet as Calathas hit a jumper pushing the lead to 11 with 1:45 left, feeling like he put the nail in the proverbial coffin. But just before everyone got too comfortable, McCollum drilled a 28 footer.
Nicholas Batum had an open three in the corner, but missed everything, and Jeff Green hit one of two free-throws to put the lead back to nine. McCollum hit another three from the elbow, and the next 40 game seconds were spent at the free-throw line for Memphis, as Portland would drill threes and foul, to get themselves back into it. Ultimately, they would fall short.
Memphis would take the game, and the series 4-1, with a score of 99-33.
C.J. McCollum used the series as a coming out party, after averaging four ppg. In the first two games, he exploded to average 25.33 ppg. in the final three games.
Stud of the Game: Marc Gasol: leading Memphis in points(26) and rebounds(14) with another double-double, and anchoring the team defense.
Dud of the Game: Arron Afflalo: for the second game in a row, Afflalo was completely ineffective, not registering a point on zero for two shooting. His +/- was -14. Not good Arron.
Stat of the Game: C.J. McCollum, with 33 points, had the most points in the playoffs by a Blazer reserve, in the history of the franchise.
What happens next year for Portland? All eyes will be on LaMarcus Aldridge. Has he played his last game in a Portland uniform? All those questions will have to wait until July first when free agency starts.
As for Memphis, they can celebrate for a night, but then need to get back to work. As a reward for defeating Portland, the Grizzlies will get to see Steve Kerr’s athletic defense and sharp-shooting offense in the Western Conference Semi-finals. They will need Mike Conley to return from his eye injury (which does not look promising), to have a chance to stop Golden State’s high octane offense.
Congratulations to Memphis on winning the series 4-1. But beware: the best of the west are looming. Golden State awaits.