Report Card: Grizz Survive Nail-biter in Portland
Memphis outlasts Portland in a tight battle, 98-97.
Whew. This was a scary one. From the first quarter, this game felt like it would be close throughout, and it did not disappoint.
The Memphis Grizzlies were able to overcome a dominant performance by C.J. McCollum (36 points on 14-26 shooting) to get back on the winning track. The Portland Trail Blazers have played solid basketball this season and hold arguably the best backcourt in the league. Damian Lillard struggled on Tuesday night, with just 12 points on 4-16 shooting, but the Blazers just wouldn’t go away.
It was the steal followed by a tough and-1 finish on the other end by Dillon Brooks that appeared to seal this game for the Grizzlies with 39 seconds left. Though Portland made some noise afterwards, it was too little too late.
Memphis is now 7-4 on the season and will close out a long road trip with Houston on Nov. 11 and Milwaukee on Nov. 13.
Here are my grades for Tuesday’s match-up with Portland:
Grizzlies Offense: C+
This year’s Grizz offense has been so exciting, yet so incredibly frustrating. Tuesday night leaned more toward the frustrating side. Though the shooting percentages were not horrible, 47.9% from the field and 84% from the free throw line, the offense never really fell into a rhythm. More on Mike Conley later, but he struggled mightily in the first half which will continue to hinder the Memphis offense as a whole.
Balanced scoring and very good team defense kept the Grizz in the game, but the flow of the game was choppy. With another below average three-point shooting performance (7-19), the shot selection could have been better, but makes came when they were needed. We all know this Memphis team is capable of putting up triple figures every night, no matter the opponent, ultimately producing just average results in Portland.
Bench sans Tyreke Evans (A+): C-
The starters finally pulled their weight for an entire game, which took some much need pressure off the bench. The pleasantly surprising bench scoring wasn’t there tonight for people not named Tyreke Evans, just 17 points between Chalmers, Parsons, and Wright. Reke is still playing out of his mind, he threw in 21 points on 8-15 shooting and some clutch baskets. He has undoubtedly become the leader off the bench and is steaming with confidence right now.
On the other hand, Chandler Parsons has cooled down a little, but also not getting the touches as often recently. Mario Chalmers is still struggling to shoot consistently and fouling very consistently, but contributing quality minutes at the back up PG position. And Brandan Wright is playing his role as well as anyone on this team. He dunks when he is lobbed to, he hit free throws when he is fouled, and plays solid defense. The bench will continue to be a key component to this team, but tonight was not their best performance.
Marc Gasol struggled offensively, just 5-14 for 16 points, but affected the game in other ways. He just seems to make the right play every time. He played quality defense, anchoring the lane where Portland struggled to find any resemblance of post play. The almighty Jusuf Nurkic was held to just 6 points, though two early first quarter fouls hindered his playing time.
3 point play, converted. pic.twitter.com/rAmy5lm4na
— Memphis Grizzlies (@memgrizz) November 8, 2017
Mike Conley was 0-for in the first half. He ended the game with 20 points and some ridiculous layups in the third quarter. Conley scored all 20 points in the 2nd half when the Grizzlies needed him most. He has most definitely lived up to his nickname “Captain Clutch”, but as in most games this season, it would have been nice to see him show up in the first half. Apart from a silly foul in the final minute to give Portland some hope on one of their last possessions, Mike Conley led this team mightily in the second half.
Dillon Brooks: B+
My man is playing solid basketball right now. He was returning to his old stomping grounds in Oregon, the crowd recognized with loud appreciation as he was announced in the starting lineup, and his former college coach was sitting court side, no pressure. He lived up to it, especially in the fourth quarter.
Brooks has been tasked all season with guarding the most elite scorers in the NBA, tonight was no different. He checked C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard for long stretches multiple times throughout the game. Most importantly, Brooks locked down McCollum on the last possession of the game with the Blazers down just one point and 12 seconds left. Brooks didn’t bite on the shot fakes and forced a tough fadeaway attempt by McCollum. Brooks ended the game with just seven points, but his overall contribution was huge.
Comments: This was yet another quality win for Memphis, a win that can disguise the bad losses to Dallas and the LA Lakers. The Portland win was a total team effort, everyone on the court playing their role the whole game. An important encouragement to note is the change in mindset and execution after halftime. Memphis played sloppy and out of sync in the first half, but tightened up on both ends of the floor in the second half.
Role players like Jarrell Martin and James Ennis III handled the ball confidently and made the right decisions. Mike Conley finally got it going even after an ice cold start, and the Grizzlies were able to pull out a win despite a down game by the bench. Houston is up next, here’s to three straight wins against James Harden and co.