Say this for the Blazers: they never quit. In the final seconds of their season-ending 99-93 loss to the Grizzlies, they kept playing the fouling game to try and cut the deficit. But despite a huge scoring night from C.J. McCollum off the bench, it wasn’t enough to stop the Mike Conley-less Grizzlies from advancing to a second-round matchup with the Warriors.
Playing without Mike Conley (who was shown a few times on the TNT broadcast, and I would not wish on anyone what’s going on with his fractured face), Memphis turned in a solid, balanced effort that included the resurrection of Courtney Lee (20 points) and a big night from Marc Gasol (26 points and 14 rebounds).
And 38-year-old Vince Carter did this:
Even with Conley’s injury, the Grizzlies were always going to have the upper hand in this series. The Blazers haven’t been the same at either end of the floor since losing Wesley Matthews for the season in March. Arron Afflalo has struggled stepping into a starting role, and there isn’t much else on the wings. They were depending on huge series from LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard, and Lillard in particular came up short, shooting just over 40 percent from the field and an atrocious 16.1 percent from three-point range.
McCollum was one of the few bright spots for the Blazers on Wednesday, putting up 33 points and showing legitimate promise as a piece of Portland’s core moving forward. What the rest of that core will look like remains to be seen, and now the big question begins in earnest: has Aldridge played his final game with the Blazers?
In the meantime, we get Warriors-Grizzlies, hopefully with a healthy Conley.