Very well put together video by the Portland Trail Blazers. Now let’s grind one out in the Grind House tonight. Rip City!!
Written By: Nathanael Meadowcroft
[Editors Note: I’m juiced to be introducing Nathanael Meadowcroft as 503tv The Blog’s official Blazer Gang contributor. We’re hoping to have Nathanael’s Trail Blazers playoff analyses through out the 2015 NBA Playoffs (and if we’re lucky, beyond). Welcome aboard Nathanael!]
Like last season, the Portland Trail Blazers are entering the playoffs on the road playing a team they struggled against in the regular season. Not many predicted that Portland would make it past the Houston Rockets last year, but the Blazers found a way.
This year, it’s the same story but with different characters. The Trail Blazers begin their playoff push tomorrow evening in Memphis against the Grizzlies, who swept Portland in the regular season. Both teams are dealing with injuries, but the general consensus around the league is that the Grizzlies will advance to the second round.
Can the Blazers prove everyone wrong again?
Team health will certainly be key. The Grizzlies’ Mike Conley and Jeff Green are both questionable for tomorrow’s series opener but intend to play, as do Portland’s CJ McCollum and Chris Kaman. When Arron Afflalo will return to the court is unknown. Nicolas Batum, who suffered a knee injury against the Thunder this past week, is set to return to action in time for the playoffs. And of course, the Blazers will be without Wesley Matthews who tore his ACL on March 5.
What does all this mean for the series? Conley, the Grizzlies’ starting point guard and often referred to as the most underrated point guard in the NBA, has had a lot of success matching up against Portland point guard Damian Lillard this season.
In the three games between Memphis and Portland this season that Conley played in, Lillard shot a combined 43.1 percent from the field while Conley averaged 51.2 percent field goal shooting. Conley’s possible absence should help Lillard, although it is interesting to note that in the one matchup that Conley missed in the regular season, Lillard shot just 34.6 percent from the field while Conley’s replacement Beno Udrih finished a perfect 7-for-7 from the floor.
However, that game was the closest of the four the teams played in the regular season, with the Grizzlies holding off the Blazers by four points.
If Conley does miss one game or possibly more, Lillard and the Blazers need to take advantage and steal home-court advantage from the Grizzlies as they did against the Rockets last year.
Like the point guard matchup, the battle between Portland’s Robin Lopez and Memphis’s Marc Gasol could be decisive. Gasol averaged 18.8 points per game against the Blazers this year. Lopez and Portland will need to keep that number down this series if they want to be successful.
The power forward matchup between LaMarcus Aldridge and Zach Randolph is always a fun one to watch. Aldridge is much more of a scorer than Randolph, but Randolph’s physical play could hinder Aldridge’s effectiveness. Portland’s four-time All-Star averaged 22.3 points in his three appearances against Memphis this season, and the Blazers will need all that and more to get past the Grizzlies.
While each matchup between the team’s starters is intriguing, perhaps what will ultimately tip the series in favor of one team will be bench play. Portland’s playoff seeding suffered because of the multitude of injuries over the last month of the season, but these injuries allowed several bench players to see significant playing time and find their groove before the postseason begins.
CJ McCollum especially flourished over the last month of the season, and Meyers Leonard and Allen Crabbe both benefited from increased playing time as well. If the Blazers can get good minutes from these three guys, the series could tilt in their favor.
There are no easy outs in the Western Conference. Like in last year’s first-round series, the Blazers will need big performances from Aldridge and clutch play from Lillard to get past the Grizzlies. Portland has lost nine of their past 11 meetings with Memphis, but those were regular season games. The playoffs are different from the regular season, and the Blazers hope the results will be different too.
On Friday March 2, 2014 the Portland Trailblazers defeated the Houston Rockets in game six of the NBA Playoffs thanks to a buzzer beating 3-pointer by Damon Lilliard. Lilliard’s shot earned the team a spot in the Western Conference Semi-Finals for the first time in 14 years.
The Moda Center was jumping hours before the tip off and 503tv Co founder Krutch was on the scene taking it all in. Check out this short video mash-up and our photo album of shots he took during the festivities.