The Grizzlies led by as many as 29 points in their Game 1 victory over the Blazers, and while Game 2 never got quite that out of hand, the result was the same nonetheless.
Memphis once again used stellar guard play and its strong team defense to frustrate Portland into 39 percent shooting, on the way to a 97-82 victory and a 2-0 lead in the first-round series.
During the regular season, opposing guards regularly torched the Blazers defense. James Harden scored 44 and 45 points against Portland in separate performances, while Russell Westbrook had two 40-point games of his own. It’s been no different from Memphis so far in this series, just on a slightly smaller scale, and with the points coming from three players instead of one.
Mike Conley, Beno Udrih and Courtney Lee combined for 46 points on 18-of-31 shooting, while Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph — who were one and two for the Grizzlies in scoring during the regular season — combined to shoot 9-of-31 from the field for just 25 points.
On the Blazers’ side, LaMarcus Aldridge started out hot with nine first-quarter points, but overall Portland simply couldn’t get anything easy. A lot of that was of their own doing early on, with plenty of shots being forced, contested or rushed, and often times coming early in the shot clock.
Damian Lillard struggled to find his way for the second straight game. He finished 5-of-16 from the field in this one, after a 5-of-21 Game 1 performance. He’s 1-of-11 from three-point distance through the first two games of the series, and the one he finally hit came late in Game 2 with the contest already decided.
Portland was one of the league’s better home teams during the regular season, so maybe things change for Lillard and company when the series shifts on Saturday. But the Grizzlies appear to be playing too cohesively for the Blazers to be able to impose their will for extended stretches, and if Lillard and Nicolas Batum can’t give Aldridge some help offensively, this could shape up to be a very short series.