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


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).

Grizzlies’ Mike Conley leaves game, heads to medical facility after elbow to eye

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Mike Conley is key to what Memphis does — he can hit threes, he is a good floor general, and he’s a fantastic perimeter defender. The Grizzlies were +17.7 points per 100 possessions when he’s been on the court in the first two games of the playoffs. That despite him battling a foot injury that caused him to miss games at the end of the season (one he’s not fully recovered from).

In the third game, he took an inadvertent elbow to the face from C.J. McCollum as he leaned in to go for a steal (while McCollum stumbled) that knocked him out of the game.

He left the game in the third quarter after it happened, went to the locker room, then not long after was taken to a local medical facility for further evaluation, the team announced. Reports from the arena had Conley with a swollen eye.

There has not yet been an update on his injury.

Conley had 14 points and four assists when he got injured.

The Grizzlies were without Beno Udrih, their backup point guard, due to injury. The ball fell to the hands of Nick Calathes, who played a solid game and helped the Grizzlies hang on for the 115-109 win. Memphis is now up 3-0 in the series and seems destined to advance, with or without Conley.

They will need Conley to have any hope in the next round against Stephen Curry and Golden State (which has advanced after sweeping the Pelicans).


Arron Afflalo expected to play for Blazers in Game 3 vs. Grizzlies

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The Blazers are in a deep 0-2 hole against the Memphis Grizzlies, but with the series shifting to Portland for Game 3 on Saturday, they may be getting some key rotation players back just in time.

Arron Afflalo was a midseason acquisition by Portland, and started in 19 of his 25 appearances once Wesley Matthews was lost for the season due to injury. He’s missed the first two games of the playoffs with a shoulder strain, but he’s expected to return to the lineup for the critical Game 3 matchup.

From the Associated Press:

Afflalo has been sidelined with a right shoulder strain that kept him out of the first two games of the series, both Portland losses in Memphis. He was listed as probable by the team on Friday. …

“It’s no time for trying to get to 100 percent,” Afflalo said. “You just get out there and give it your best.” …

In his ninth season, Afflalo injured his shoulder during the Trail Blazers’ 116-105 loss at Golden State on April 9. He has averaged 13.3 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.7 assists this season.

The Blazers will take all the help they can get at this point, but it’s unclear if Afflalo alone will be the answer. They’ve gotten rolled in consecutive games in Memphis, and while LaMarcus Aldridge has played well in stretches, Portland will need Damian Lillard, Nicolas Batum and C.J. McCollum to all step up big time in order to have a fighting chance in the series.

Report: Lakers and Knicks will chase LaMarcus Aldridge in free agency


LaMarcus Aldridge will be a free agent this summer, and he could leave the Trail Blazers. Even his teammates are concerned about him bolting.

Where would he go?

Aldridge has been linked to the Spurs and Mavericks, and here two more – predictable – teams for the list.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

We know Knicks & Lakers will chase LaMarcus Aldridge come July

The Spurs offer a better team than the Trail Blazers.

The Spurs and Mavericks offer locations closer to Aldridge’s home and Texas’ lack of an income tax.

The Knicks and Lakers offer larger markets (though Carmelo Anthony recruited players during All-Star weekend, and Aldridge said he was snubbed).

Between those four, nearly everything is covered. And if Aldridge shows intent to explore the market, even more teams will make thoughtful pitches.

Of course, none of those teams can offer what Portland can – more money and a chance to become the best Trail Blazer of all time, which Aldridge said was important to him.

Plans change, though. If Portland – down 2-0 to the Grizzlies – loses in the first round, that could open the door further for Aldridge to leave.

No matter what he desires, he’ll have plenty of tempting options – including staying with the Trail Blazers.

Grizzlies again cruise to easy win over Blazers, take 2-0 lead in first-round series


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.