The Portland Trail Blazers have a long list of injuries, encompassing those who are unable to play and those who are playing, but at far less than full strength. The Blazers will have to be able to find a way to fight through pain and a thin bench if they’re going to threaten the Memphis Grizzlies either on the NBA spread or straight up in Memphis.
The Portland Trail Blazers Can Win Because…
They couldn’t possibly have played any worse than they did in Game 1 against Memphis on Sunday night. The Blazers scored just 15 points in the first quarter. They trailed by 19 points at halftime and then by 24 at the end of the third quarter. Damian Lillard missed his first six shots. Memphis backup Beno Udrih made his first six shots and enjoyed one of the best games of his entire career. All these things made Memphis very happy, but are they going to happen again in Game 2? Lillard is too good a player to once again struggle from the field. Udrih is not good enough to continue to shoot at an extremely high percentage. Some regression is due for the Grizzlies, and a rise to the mean is also due for Portland. Put those two things together, and the Blazers can win.
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The Memphis Grizzlies Can Win Because…
They are going to look at film and see that they can do whatever they want with Portland. Memphis is not a particularly strong offensive team, and yet the Grizzlies reached 80 points with about three minutes left in the third quarter. Portland got bullied. Memphis physically dominated and cleared out space on offense, paving the way for backup point guard Beno Udrih to control much of the first half and propel the Grizzlies to a big early lead. The Grizzlies also controlled the boards and were able to guard the perimeter. They have matchup advantages at almost every position, and where Portland is strong – power forward LaMarcus Aldridge and point guard Damian Lillard – Memphis can play defense. Zach Randolph can handle Aldridge, and he helped Aldridge pick up a technical foul early in Sunday’s game. Mike Conley can defend Lillard, and he caused Lillard to miss six of his first seven shots on Sunday night.
In addition to the Grizzlies’ ability to win the toughest matchups on the floor (which will always put them in position to not only win, but win big), Memphis knows it is playing a very wounded Portland team. Aldridge and Chris Kaman, who played in Game 1, are banged up. Nicolas Batum was unable to play in Game 1, and Wesley Matthews is out for the season. Aaron Afflalo was also out for Game 1. Portland is just way too shorthanded to deal with Memphis’ physicality and size and defense. It’s a mismatch.
The Blazers will likely play better than they did in Game 1 but only because they set the bar really, really low. Memphis is still a healthier, more physical, more confident team, playing at home with a deeper bench and more options at all spots on the court. And don’t forget, they dominate this series. They’ve now won all five meetings this season and won 10 of the last 11. Take the Grizzlies with your NBA picks here.
NBA Pick: Memphis -6.5 at The Greek