Grizzlies start fast, hang on to beat Portland, take 3-0 series lead

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For the first two games, it was more about the Memphis defense holding Portland’s offense down. Saturday was different, it was a fluid Grizzlies offense that started out on an 11-3 run and hung 62 points on the Trail Blazers in the first half.

Still the overall pattern was the same: Memphis got out to a comfortable first half lead, Portland fought to close the gap and make it a game, but in the end just couldn’t get all the way there.

The result Saturday was a 115-109 Memphis win on the road that has the Grizzlies up 3-0 in the series. No NBA team has ever come back from 3-0 down to win a series.

However, there is potentially awful news for Memphis. Their point guard Mike Conley took an inadvertent elbow to the face from C.J. McCollum and had to leave the game not to return. Conley was taken to a local medical facility for further evaluation and reportedly had a very swollen side of his face. There is no word yet on the severity of his injury or if he could miss games.

Saturday’s game started completely differently for the two teams.

Portland opened 1-of-12 from the field (LaMarcus Aldridge was 0-of-5 in the first quarter). On the other side, the Grizzlies offense was the best we had seen from them in a while, the ball movement side to side was fantastic, and it tore apart Blazers defense.

It wasn’t just Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph on post ups; it was more Conley and the Grizzlies guards getting little resistance on penetration and getting into the paint.  Memphis had 30 points in the paint in the first half. Portland’s Damian Lillard had his best half of the series, coming up with 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting, but LaMarcus Aldridge was just 1-of-10 shooting — all series Portland could only get one of its two stars going at a time.

Portland came out more focused in the second half — playing with a needed sense of desperation like a team seeing elimination looming — and they took away the easy buckets Memphis had been getting. Yet Portland couldn’t close the gap — the Grizzlies brought the grind. When Portland would make a couple plays, the Grizzlies would find a way to get a stop then get key buckets. One time it was back-to-back buckets from Marc Gasol. Another time it was Tony Allen.

Portland got the Grizzlies’ lead all the way down to three at one point, but never were closer. They couldn’t get stops down the stretch.

Marc Gasol had 25 points to lead Memphis; Courtney Lee added 20 and Zach Randolph finished with 16. Portland had 27 from Nicolas Batum while McCollum pitched in 26.

The Grizzlies can close out the series Monday night. Golden State awaits in the next round (and Memphis will need Conley in that series to have a chance).