After powering them on a brief road trip, Damian Lillard will try to keep the Portland Trail Blazers rolling in their return home.
Waiting for Lillard and the Blazers, though, is the team that eliminated them from last season’s playoffs.
The Memphis Grizzlies will seek to add to their recent dominance over Portland – which extends beyond the postseason – on Thursday night.
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Lillard totaled 69 points in Portland’s back-to-back road wins to open this month and registered a season-high 35 on 14-of-27 shooting in Wednesday’s 108-92 victory against Utah. He also made 14 of 25 shots in a win over Minnesota on Monday and went a combined 9 of 20 from 3-point range in the two games.
Lillard averaged 25.3 points in the final three games in the opening-round series against Memphis but couldn’t prevent a five-game defeat. The Trail Blazers will have a new look in this season’s matchup as their point guard is the only remaining starter from last season’s team.
"He’s our best player, and he’s taken the leadership role," coach Terry Stotts said. "He’s ready for it after three years. He’s been kind of groomed. He’s a natural leader. He’s sets a great example for his teammates. He has an unquestioned work ethic. When you have that, it’s easier to lead."
With its playoff victory, Memphis has won 13 of the past 15 matchups and six of the last eight in Portland.
The Grizzlies enter this game after starkly contrasting results in the first two stops on a lengthy road trip.
They endured the most lopsided defeat in franchise history, 119-69 to Golden State, in Monday’s opener of the five-game trek and bounced back with a 103-89 win over Sacramento on Tuesday.
The Grizzlies shot 48.2 percent after connecting at a franchise-low 27.1 against the Warriors. Zach Randolph led the way with a season-high 20 points – following a four-point performance the previous night – and had 11 rebounds.
"Games like (the loss to Golden State) can definitely happen (early in the season)," point guard Mike Conley said. "We have our sights set on playing in June, but we have to do a better job of being consistent like we have always been in the past."
Marc Gasol averaged 24.0 points in the final three games of last season’s playoff series and had 14 rebounds in the clincher. He’s averaged 22.6 points in his last five games in Portland, including the postseason, but is averaging 12.0 so far in this campaign and has been held to single digits in two of the past three games.
Gasol developed a neck spasm and didn’t play in the second half Tuesday. His status is day to day.
Courtney Lee, averaging 10.4 points, put up 19.3 per contest in the final four playoff games against Portland.
The Blazers’ C.J. McCollum, who had 27 points on 10-of-13 shooting Wednesday, averaged 25.7 points on 60.9 percent shooting in the last three matchups versus Memphis.
Lillard totaled 54 points in the two home games in the series.
Meyers Leonard’s status is unclear for this game after he was forced to leave in the first quarter against the Jazz because of a sprained right ankle.