The Memphis Grizzlies are feeling confident back at FedExForum, though facing Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers has become a more difficult challenge since Mike Conley went down.
With their point guard expected to be out again, the Grizzlies try to finish off Portland and advance to the Western Conference semifinals with their seventh straight home win over the Blazers on Wednesday night in Game 5.
Conley played a leading role in holding the All-Star Lillard to 32 total points and 10-of-37 shooting (27.0 percent) in the first two games at Memphis, won by the Grizzlies by a combined 29 points.
Lillard played better in Game 3 with 22 points and nine assists in the Grizzlies’ 115-109 win at Portland, which Conley left after taking an inadvertent elbow to the face in the third quarter.
He had surgery Monday to repair facial fractures and is expected to miss at least one more game. The Grizzlies will have a more definite timetable after the swelling goes down.
Without the pestering defense of Conley in Game 4 on Monday, Lillard scored 12 of his game-high 32 in the fourth quarter of a 99-92 victory.
Memphis led by double figures in the final period before Portland rallied to deny the Grizzlies’ first playoff sweep. Memphis is looking to move on to a matchup with top-seeded Golden State.
”When you’re up 10 points with (eight) minutes in the game in this league, you got to finish,” said forward Zach Randolph, who had 12 points on 6-of-20 shooting. ”Especially in these circumstances and what we’re playing for. So it’s frustrating.”
Jeff Green’s struggles off the bench aren’t helping matters. Green had seven points Monday – more than six below his average – and went 3 of 10 to leave his shooting percentage for the series at 27.9.
Nick Calathes figures to be back in the starting lineup after finishing with 12 points on 4-of-5 shooting from 3-point range while filling in for Conley on Monday. Backup point guard Beno Udrih added 13 points.
Courtney Lee has been a bright spot in the backcourt, averaging 19.0 points and 70.0 percent shooting in the past three games. Marc Gasol has scored a combined 46 in the last two, though he’s made 37.5 percent from the field over the four games.
Memphis was outscored 42-38 in the paint Monday after holding a 144-102 advantage in the first three contests.
"We’ve got some momentum,” Portland center Meyers Leonard said after scoring a playoff career-high 13. ”We are taking this game-by-game. We are going to go to Memphis and try to get one. Then hopefully back here for Game 6.”
Lillard will try to build on his third career 30-point playoff effort as the Blazers look to pull out their first victory at FedExForum since January 2013. They’ve averaged 89.3 points during the six consecutive losses at Memphis.
C.J. McCollum has totaled 44 points in the past two games after scoring eight on 4-of-21 shooting in the first two.
"Lillard is a heck of a player, but we’ve got serious problems right now with C.J. McCollum," Memphis coach Dave Joerger said. "He is getting to the rim, to the rim, to the rim on us over and over and over. We have to do a better job of keeping in front of him."