The Portland Trail Blazers hope for a second straight win when they take on the red-hot Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday. The opening tip for this contest is scheduled for 6 p.m. ET at FedExForum in Memphis, Tn.
Portland is coming off a home win over the Charlotte Hornets on Friday night, snapping a seven-game losing streak. The Trail Blazers are 12-18 and in fourth place in the Northwest Division, 2½ games behind the third-place Minnesota Timberwolves.
The Grizzlies have won five in a row, including a road win against the Sacramento Kings on Friday night. Memphis improved to 19-11 and sits atop the Southwest Division standings, four games ahead of the second-place Dallas Mavericks.
Back In Business?
The 2021-22 season has been a struggle for the Trail Blazers, especially in keeping their backcourt healthy. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, the team’s top two scorers, have each missed eight games so far, though Lillard may be starting to find his groove on the court.
Lillard is coming off a season-high 43-point performance in the win over Charlotte, hitting 6-of-11 from 3-point range. That’s big news for the 10-year veteran, whose 31.6% accuracy from beyond the arc this season is a career-low.
Lillard needs to carry the load with McCollum currently sidelined with a collapsed lung. Lillard is averaging 22.8 points and 7.7 assists this season, but he just hasn’t been the dominant scorer and dead-eye shooter that Portland fans are used to seeing.
With McCollum and his 20.6 points per game out of the lineup for this one, others will need to step up for Portland offensively to help out Lillard. On Friday night, that was Ben McLemore off the bench, scoring 28 points in 27 minutes and hitting 8-of-13 3-pointers. McLemore, Norman Powell, and Robert Covington can help open things up if they’re hitting from the perimeter in this one.
Center Jusuf Nurkic is also an important piece of the Portland puzzle, averaging 13.3 points and 10.1 rebounds. He has to be on the court to make a difference, though, as he played just 15 minutes against Charlotte before fouling out.
On A Roll
The Grizzlies are definitely a different team in mindset as well as on the court these days, as they feel confident. Friday’s win over the Kings was an example, as Memphis rallied from a 15-point second-quarter deficit with a 68-27 run on the way to an easy 19-point victory.
“If we’re down, the only thing to do is fight. That’s our mentality,” Memphis forward Jaren Jackson Jr. said after Friday’s win. “We’d like to be up all game, but we know it’s not always going to be like that. It’s good that we’re able to withstand that and finish the deal.”
They’ve been finishing the deal a lot lately, even with star guard Ja Morant (24.1 points, 6.8 assists per game) out since Nov. 26 with a knee injury.
Forward Dillon Brooks is playing well, averaging 23.2 points over the last four games. Brooks is shooting 40% from 3-point range over that span and is always one of the team’s best defenders.
Jackson has also turned it up a bit, averaging 20.5 points per game over his last five games. Jackson’s 3-point shooting has been a bit off, as he’s shot 1-of-13 from beyond the arc over the last three games.
Portland got a shot in the arm from Lillard on Friday night, but overall, it has been a struggle for the Trail Blazers to get wins this season. Memphis is playing with a lot of confidence and getting contributions from multiple players on both ends of the floor. Look for that to continue for the Grizzlies on Sunday night.
When making your NBA picks, take Memphis to win and cover at home.