Portland comes from 10 down in fourth quarter to win 99-92, stay alive in series


With about eight minutes left in the game, it looked like only one team was going to be making the flight back to Memphis. The Grizzlies were up 10 and seemingly in control of Game 4, locking down the Blazers with their defense. This was about to be a sweep.

But Portland raged, raged against the dying of the light.

Portland closed the game on a 29-12 run thanks to a dozen fourth quarter points from Damian Lillard, and the Blazers stayed alive with a 99-92 win at home. Memphis now leads the series 3-1, with Game 5 back in Memphis on Wednesday.

Lillard, freed from the shackles of Mike Conley (who was out following surgery to his fractured face Monday morning, he is not expected to play Wednesday either), was in attack mode. Lillard averaged 18 points a game in the first three but shot just 35.2 percent, not impacting the game the way the Blazers needed. With Conley out that changed — he put up 32 points. Lillard was attacking, shooting 5-of-8 inside eight feet of the rim, but his midrange jumper was falling as well with a little more space (11 of his 23 shots were uncontested).

Portland also got a boost from their bench. C.J. McCollum had 18 points, and Meyers Leonard was tremendous as a stretch five, scoring 13 points and hitting 3-of-3 from three. Leonard’s play pulled Memphis bigs out of the paint and opened things up for Lillard to drive.

The bench contributions were especially huge on a night LaMarcus Aldrige was just 6-of-22 from the floor, and Nicolas Batum was 3-of-13.

With Conley out, Beno Udrih had 13 points, while Nick Calathes added 12 and hit 4-of-5 from three to give the Grizzlies some production from the one spot. But the problems was on the other end — they could not begin to contain Lillard and that sparked the Blazers’ runs.

Memphis once again got off to a fast start, starting out 12-4 to open the game. But this time Portland responded with a 13-2 run of their own to take a small lead. Portland had its best first quarter of the series and was up 27-22 after one. With Leonard spacing the floor and Lillard attacking Portland stretched out the lead to 55-48 at the half.

Then in the third quarter the Grizzlies took charge again, their defense returned, and they won the quarter 27-13. The Trail Blazers started out 5-25 from the field in the second half. Memphis was battling through screens, blowing up Portland’s pick-and-roll game. The result was a lot of  Grizz just fighting through screens and forcing Blazers to go 1-on-1. It worked.

For a while.

Credit Portland for this: They could have just started thinking about tee times for the summer. They didn’t. They fought back.

Can Portland replicate it on the road in Game 5?

Maybe, because it’s tough to imagine Conley is going to play. That said, Memphis was in position to win Game 4 and get the sweep, and at home they are not going to take their foot off Portland’s throat — don’t expect the same defensive slips. It’s going to be much harder for Portland to earn a second win.

But they earned the chance to try.


Grizzlies’ Mike Conley has surgery to repair face, likely 48 hours before timetable


Mike Conley went under the knife Monday morning, having surgery to repair multiple broken bones in his face suffered by an inadvertent elbow from C.J. McCollum in Game 3 of the Grizzlies’ first-round series against Portland.

Obviously Conley will be out for Game 4 Monday night, but how much longer could he be out? That’s up in the air, reports Adrian Wojnaroski on Yahoo Sports.

After surgery to repair a facial fracture on guard Mike Conley, the Memphis Grizzlies need to wait 48 hours for the swelling to subside before gaining a clearer understanding of a timeline for a possible playoff return, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

There are scenarios in which Conley could return in a possible Western Conference semifinals series against the Golden State Warriors, league sources said, but that’s uncertain until the healing process begins, the pain lessens and Conley can be fitted for a mask.

Up 3-0 on Portland (a team they have been beaten handily for a couple seasons now), it’s hard to imagine Memphis not advancing with or without their starting point guard. It may take more than four games, but they will advance.

But if the Grizzlies are going to give Golden State trouble, they will need Conley and his defense on the Warriors backcourt of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. That series is a potential fascinating matchup of styles — the Warriors like to play small and fast, the Grizzlies big and slow — but if Conley can’t go it would be a huge setback for Memphis.

Report: Pelicans to be “aggressive” about Anthony Davis extension offer


Fresh off the franchise’s first playoff appearance since 2011 (when they were known as the Hornets), the Pelicans will soon be faced with the prospect of locking up Anthony Davis long-term. To the surprise of absolutely no one, they plan on offering Davis the most money and years possible at the earliest moment they can: just past midnight on July 1.

From ESPN.com’s Marc Stein:

With star forward Anthony Davis eligible for a contract extension this summer, Pelicans officials plan to be aggressive as possible in presenting him with a maximum five-year deal that could approach $140 million, according to league sources.

The exact figures will depend on how much the NBA salary cap deal actually rises, but sources told ESPN.com that the Pelicans indeed intend to present Davis with the biggest offer they can once the window for negotiations opens July 1.

The Pelicans would then have until Oct. 31 to convince Davis to sign a five-year deal that makes him their Designated Player.

Offering Davis this extension is a no-brainer. He’s 22 and already an MVP candidate and arguably one of the five best players in the world. And with the salary cap jumping as much as it is in 2016, Davis would be hard-pressed to turn down this much guaranteed money. Some rookie-scale extensions go down to the October 31 deadline, but the most high-profile ones, maximum extensions for face-of-the-franchise type guys, tend to get done quickly. Kyrie Irving committed to a maximum extension on the first night of free agency last year, and deals for Kevin Durant (2010), Blake Griffin (2012) and John Wall (2013) were done early on in free agency. Don’t be surprised to see the Blazers lock Damian Lillard up to a similar extension as early as possible.

Mike Conley out for Game 4 with “serious” facial injury, no timetable for return


In the Grizzlies’ Saturday night win over the Blazers, Mike Conley suffered a facial injury after taking an inadvertent elbow from C.J. McCollum.

Conley tweeted after the game that he was fine, but it turns out that isn’t the case. He’s out for Monday’s Game 4 in Portland, a potential series clincher for the Grizzlies, after returning to the hospital with a “serious” facial injury, according to the team.

Conley has dealt with foot issues in recent weeks, and his foot seems to be fine. It would be unfortunate if this unrelated injury took him out of the Grizzlies’ playoff run. They’re up 3-0 on the Blazers and should still be able to seal the first-round series win this week, but good luck even being competitive against Golden State in the second round without Conley.

LaMarcus Aldridge flew back to Portland after Game 2 loss while rest of Blazers stayed in Memphis


LaMarcus Aldridge will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, and although it was believed for much of the season that he’d simply re-sign with the Blazers, there have been recent rumblings that he may seriously consider playing somewhere else.

One anonymous teammate put his odds of returning at no better than 50-50, while another report had the Spurs as a team that could possibly in the mix for his services.

To this point, all of the chatter has come from various unnamed sources. But for those looking to read the tea leaves to see what might truly lie in store, a decision Aldridge recently made might provide some additional clarification.

From Jason Quick of The Oregonian:

There is unease about the future of LaMarcus Aldridge, who will become a free agent on July 1. ESPN’s Chris Broussard on Saturday reported that he asked Aldridge if Portland is his No. 1 choice. Broussard said Aldridge smiled and said “We’ll see.”

And after Game 2 in Memphis, Olshey gave the team the option to stay the night and fly home on the team charter, or return to Portland on their own.

Take it for what it’s worth, but only one player wasn’t on the team charter: Aldridge.

“I didn’t want to stay in that hotel one more night,” Aldridge said on Saturday. “So I bought my own ticket and flew home.”

Having stayed in Memphis hotels, I don’t halfway blame Aldridge for wanting to get back to Portland as soon as possible. But it also doesn’t scream brotherhood, or togetherness, either.

It was an odd choice by Aldridge, if only because it was one that isolated him from the rest of his teammates.

This may, of course, mean nothing at all. Or, it could be yet another sign that Aldridge has one foot out the door, and might only have one game left as a member of the Blazers franchise.