Memphis Grizzlies vs Portland Trail Blazers: Lineups, preview & prediction 3/31/18
The Blazers suffered a disappointing loss to the Grizzlies earlier in the week, but have a chance for immediate redemption on their home floor
The Grizzlies went down 97-107 in Utah on Friday, but before that had defeated both Portland and Minnesota in consecutive games. The two wins likely sealed their 14th place finish in the west where they sit with a 21-55 record.
The Trail Blazers would understandably have been extremely disappointed with their effort against Memphis earlier in the week and bounced back with a 105-96 win over the Clippers. They will view this game as a chance for immediate redemption against an inferior side, though the loss isn’t likely to cost them much, anyway.
With a 47-29 record, Portland are in third place in the Western Conference standings and appear likely to stay there. The Warriors are out of reach eight games ahead in second while the fourth-placed Spurs are three games back.
Three keys to the game
The Blazers thirst for redemption – Portland probably don’t have to win this game to clinch the third seed, with only six games remaining and three games separating themselves from third. If they put their best foot forward though, they will have no problems disposing of the Grizzlies. The outcome of this game will depend heavily on how much pride they have.
Gasol’s performance – With Tyreke Evans out, the Grizzlies side comprises Marc Gasol flanked by youngsters and fringe NBA players. On Friday, he put in an incredible game and they still lost by ten points. In that game, he went 11-for-12 from the field and 6-for-7 from deep on the way to 28 points, and he might need to do something similar to get them close in this one.
Transition defense – Memphis have for years prided themselves on their defensive grit, but this season that has come unstuck a little. Their transition defense is just one example of why, and their 13.9 fast break points conceded per game is the fifth most in the league. Portland, however, are last in the league at scoring in this way, so it will be interesting to see whether they can capitalize on the Grizzlies’ weakness in this area.
Matchup to watch
Marc Gasol vs Jusuf Nurkic – As mentioned, Gasol is key to the Grizzlies hopes, and if he doesn’t perform, they’ll be beaten by a big margin. He has understandably appeared disenfranchised for much of the past two months but has played a couple of good games in the past week. He had 28 points on Friday, and two games earlier had 20 points, ten rebounds, and six assists.
His high defensive IQ will need to be used to limit Nurkic, who has scored 20+ points in two of his past three games. Nurkic averages 14.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.4 blocks, and has been important on the defensive end in recent games. He averages 3.2 blocks and 1.6 steals in his past seven games, and he will need to perform similarly to keep Gasol quiet.
Memphis Grizzlies predicted starting lineup
PG – Mario Chalmers | SG – Dillon Brooks | SF – Jarell Martin | PF – JaMychal Green | C – Marc Gasol
Portland Trail Blazers predicted starting lineup
PG – Damian Lillard | SG – CJ McCollum | SF – Evan Turner | PF – Al-Farouq Aminu | C – Jusuf Nurkic
Even though the Blazers went down against Memphis earlier in the week, McCollum put in a huge performance. He shot 16-for-25 for 42 points and also grabbed three boards and had five assists. He was handy in the previous couple of games against them this season too, scoring 24 points in the second of them and 36 points in the first. Overall, he averages 34 points on 55.9% shooting against Memphis this season.
The Grizzlies have been given a 14.5 point head start against the Blazers and expect them to cover this line. They are a far worse side, but have beaten Portland twice this year and should be able to keep the final margin under this total.
Portland will bounce back after their disappointing loss earlier in the week against the Grizzlies to win this one pretty comfortably. They have far too much talent across the floor, and even allowing for a dominant performance by Gasol, won’t have any problems earning a victory. Behind their star backcourt, they’ll open a big lead earlier, and maintain it throughout the game to win 109-99.
The game will be broadcast locally on Fox Sports Southeast and NBCSNW. Tip-off is at 9pm ET.