Baller Mind Frame

Trail Blazers Stun Grizzlies, Avoid Sweep

Screen capture courtesy of NBA/YouTube.

Screen capture courtesy of NBA/YouTube.

“When you’re up 10 points with six minutes in the game in this league, you got to finish. Especially in these circumstances and what we’re playing for. So it’s frustrating.” – Zach Randolph after Game 4

The Portland Trail Blazers staved off elimination with a 99-92 win over the Memphis Grizzlies after being dominated in the first three games of the series. What was so different about this contest?

Keep the Grizzlies under 97 points and your chances of winning go up exponentially. Unlike the previous games, Memphis had trouble getting easy buckets in Game 4. Some of this can be attributed to the Blazers’ guards who finally stopped zoning out on every backscreen and cut, but the biggest factor there is Mike Conley‘s absence from the game after suffering a facial fracture in the third quarter of Game 3. Conley could miss more games which could have ripples throughout the rest of the playoffs.

The blown 10-point lead in the last period is indicative what of has happened all season even with everyone healthy. Memphis’ leads are blown all the time so this isn’t surprising. The bears played with their food too much, and now risk being in serious trouble if Portland can somehow bring the series back home.

Monday night saw two point guard come back from the dead in different games. Deron Williams was found on a court at Barclay’s and Damian Lillard actually showed up at the Moda Center (it is so hard not to call this place the Rose Garden)! The All-Star point guard went to the basket at will versus Nick Calathes and Beno Udrih, but carefully utilized screens each time Tony Allen got near. He was especially effective in the second half when LaMarcus Aldridge stayed out of the paint (Aldridge shot 1-of-11 from the field in the last two quarters) which kept the Grizzlies’ big men from clogging the driving lanes. The most important offensive adjustment made was to finally push the ball up the floor before the Grizzlies were in their defensive sets.

This does not count as a fast break score but the result is similar – an easy basket or an open opportunity for a player waiting on the ball. Portland rarely did this in the first three games of the series, but used these chances to great effect in Game 4. Expect to see a lot more of this going forward.

The Blazers’ rotation for the game definitely shows this was an elimination game – only 8 players entered the game for Portland and 5 of them played 35 minutes or more. The team showed an amazing amount of heart and grit. Multiple Blazers had clutch moments and hustle plays that won’t show up on the scoreboard. The turnovers were kept to a minimum (9) and they outrebounded the Grizzlies 50-40 (Aldridge in particular had 8 offensive rebounds).

Portland has a lot to be proud of but still nearly lost the game. Aldridge and Lillard need to find ways to be dominant in the same game against Memphis’ defense. C.J. McCollum and Meyers Leonard are not scoring 18 and 13 respectively in an away game so the remedy needs to be found before Wednesday night.

Game 5 airs on TNT, Wednesday at 9:30 PM Eastern Time.

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