The Memphis Grizzlies continued their dominance against the Portland Trail Blazers (playing without LaMarcus Aldridge) in a 98-92 road win thanks to perfect defense in the fourth quarter and an excellent performance from all five starters.
The Blazers seemed to be in control of the game after scoring 39 points in the third quarter, taking a 13-point lead into the finale, backed by going 7-of-9 from beyond the arc in the third. But the Grizzlies, third in the NBA when it comes to defensive efficiency (giving up 102.9 points per 100 possessions), locked down in the fourth quarter, allowing just 15 points and forcing the Blazers to just 4-of-23 from the field in the final 12 minutes.
Terry Stotts: We let that one get away from us. A 13-point lead in the fourth quarter at home, you feel like you’re in a good position to win the game. We had a 13-point lead. One turnover led to another. We let them take us out of what we do. L.A. is obviously the guy we go to when we’re struggling — the fact that we didn’t have him in the fourth quarter, that’s pretty obvious.
The Grizzlies made it seem like what they did sound very simple. When you break it down into numbers, it really is: They scored on 10 of their first 13 possessions of the fourth quarter and got stops on 15 of the final 18 possessions for the Blazers. Not having LaMarcus Aldridge on the floor obviously helped, as the Blazers often were left scrambling to get a shot up in time, often a tough and contested three. Damian Lillard and Wesley Matthews (no field goals!!!) combined to shoot just 2-of-12 from beyond the arc.
There was no need for the bench to step up. Marc Gasol led the team with 21 points, and everyone in the starting lineup finished in double figures for the Grizzlies. Courtney Lee scored 19 points, Mike Conley was fantastic with 15 points and 9 assists, Zach Randolph added 15 as well and Jeff Green finished with 12 points. Tony Allen played off the bench (29 minutes) and the Grizzlies were actually better (13 points better to be exact) when he was on the floor compared to Green’s 25 minutes.
The West still isn’t won and is far from over, but the Blazers, with or without Aldridge, are struggling again entering the final two months of the season. The Grizzlies, unlike last year, aren’t racing against the clock to try and make the playoffs. They’re all about securing one of the top two seeds, hoping that the Warriors start slipping up at some point. Wins like this gets them a lot closer to their goal of making another title contention, which means at least a conference final.