The Portland Trail Blazers are still in huge trouble in this series, but they were in huge trouble in Game 4 of this first-round battle on Monday night in Oregon. Trailing by 10 points with 8:45 left, Portland was just about to hit the golf course for the offseason.
The Portland Trail Blazers Can Win Because…
They have a renewed belief in their ability to respond to adversity and contain Memphis’ offense. They also have the Grizzlies at a disadvantage because of a new injury suffered by the team from Tennessee.
The Blazers’ confidence should be sky-high after erasing an 80-70 deficit in the final 8:45 of Game 4 on Monday night. Portland came back on the strength of its defense to win, 99-92. Portland crawled back into that game against Memphis by limiting the Grizzlies to just six points over seven minutes. Memphis’ offense ground to a halt, and the Blazers were able to prevent Marc Gasol (21 points) from being able to burn them down the stretch. The Grizzlies were also unable to hit a three-point shot in that seven-minute span of time. Memphis scored 115 points on Saturday in Game 3 and had every right to feel it could do a lot of good things on offense, but Portland finally took away Memphis’ offense on Monday. That has to give the Blazers a feeling they can turn the corner in this series and get it back to Oregon for a Game 6 later in the week.
The other big reason Portland should feel emboldened is that Memphis might still be without its point guard, Mike Conley. The starter was out of the lineup in Game 4, and there’s great uncertainty about when – or if – he’ll ever return to the court in this series or in the next few weeks. Without Conley’s penetration, Memphis’ offense suffers. Nick Calathes is not a complete replacement. The Blazers could get back in the series as a result. As a final reason for Portland, Damian Lillard scored 32 points and finally looked like a superstar. If he continues to play this way, the Blazers can make up ground and win on the road, so keep this in mind when looking at the NBA odds.
The Memphis Grizzlies Can Win Because…
They should be able to defend C.J. McCollum in Memphis. What’s the old saying about the NBA playoffs? Role players do well at home, but not on the road. McCollum didn’t do much of anything in the first two games of this series in Memphis, but in Games 3 and 4 in Portland, he averaged 22 points per game, scoring 18 in Game 4 after scoring 26 in Game 3 on Saturday. Without McCollum’s scoring, Portland wouldn’t be alive in this series, but he averaged just four points per game in Games 1 and 2. If McCollum scores under 10 points, Portland probably won’t find enough offense to win. If McCollum does score more than 15, the Blazers might still get this win. In Memphis, though, don’t expect McCollum to do much.
Two other reasons to take Memphis: Role players Courtney Lee (19 points in Game 4) and Beno Udrih (13 in Game 4) continue to play well. Moreover, they played well on the road. They’re better than McCollum and should give the Grizzlies the balance they need to win.
We still have to check on Conley’s status but it feels like Game 4 was the Blazers last stand. They’ll like put up a good fight but Memphis is still the better defensive team, one that has a better bench and more toughness inside. Take the Grizzlies here with your NBA picks.
NBA Pick: Memphis Grizzlies at The Greek