Trail Blazers vs. Grizzlies: 3 things you need to know
Despite finishing with the Western Conference's sixth-best record, the Portland Trail Blazers locked into the fourth seed by winning the Northwest Division, drawing No. 5 Memphis Grizzlies as their first-round opponent.
Things don't look too good for the Blazers. Not only did Memphis secure home court by finishing with a better record than Portland, but the Blazers dropped the season series 0-4 by an average of 8.5 points.
In short: Nobody is expecting much from the Blazers.
Here's what you need to know.
The Walking Wounded
Both teams limped their way to the season's finish line after suffering a rash of injuries that will surely have an effect on the series.
Portland's biggest issue heading into the playoffs is on the wing. The Blazers lost Wesley Mathews, their most important defensive player, for the entire playoffs with a ruptured Achilles. Arron Afflalo, his backup, will likely miss at least the first two postseason games with a shoulder strain and reserve Dorell Wright may not be available until the second round after breaking a bone in his left hand.
The Blazers' swingmen left standing aren't a picture of perfect health either. Nicolas Batum and C.J. McCollum missed the season finale and, though it's probable they will both play in Game 1, neither is 100 percent.
The Grizzlies have their own injury concerns. Point guard Mike Conley missed the final four games of the year with a right foot sprain, and shooting guard Tony Allen missed the last nine with a pulled hamstring. Since these guys are gamers, both plan on suiting up. But how much pain can they play through?
Offense vs. Defense
The Blazers ranked in the top three in defensive rating through the season's first 53 games, until a steep post All-Star drop off saw them fall to 20th after the break - a byproduct of having to constantly shuffle their rotation due to injuries.
Conversely, the Grizzlies, a perennial defensive powerhouse, own the fourth-best defensive efficiency and second-best since the break.
On the other side of the ball, though, these two clubs switch places. The Blazers and their dynamic offense posted the sixth-best rating after the All-Star Game while the Grizzlies stumbled in the second half, ranking 22nd.
Lillard was productive against the Grizzlies during the regular season, averaging 22 points and 7.3 assists per game. But he was forced into an inefficient game, shooting 26.7 percent from deep and 40.3 percent from the floor while competing with the length and quickness of Conley and Allen.
Aldridge - who will draw a combination of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol defensively - was solid in the season series, posting 22.3 points on 47 percent shooting. He will be relied upon to carry the Portland offense for stretches at a time.
Lillard and Aldridge had monster series against the Rockets in the first round last year. Without repeat performances this year, Portland will be dead in the water.
Projected Starting Lineups
|PG||Damian Lillard||Mike Conley|
|SG||C.J. McCollum||Courtney Lee|
|SF||Nicolas Batum||Tony Allen|
|PF||LaMarcus Aldridge||Zach Randolph|
|C||Robin Lopez||Marc Gasol|
|Sunday April 19||8 p.m. ET||Memphis||TNT|
|Wednesday April 22||8 p.m. ET||Memphis||TNT|
|Saturday April 25||10:30 p.m. ET||Portland||ESPN|
|Monday April 27||10:30 p.m. ET||Portland||TNT|
|*Wednesday April 29||TBD||Memphis||TBD|
|*Friday May 1||TBD||Portland||TBD|
|*Sunday May 3||TBD||Memphis||TBD|
- Report: Rockets aggressively pursuing Pistons' No. 1 pick
- T-Wolves block Hernangomez from Olympics, upsetting Spanish federation
- Dream ignited: How Jonathan Kuminga made his case to be drafted top 5
- Mind the gap: The basketball world is catching up to the U.S.
- Trio of NBA Finals players finally arrives at Tokyo Olympics