On Wednesday at the FedEx Forum, the Grizzlies scored a come-from-behind 108-103 victory over the Trail Blazers that could have an impact on Portland’s finish in the Western Conference playoff race.
The Trail Blazers (47-29) are trying to clinch the third seed in the West playoffs. Their magic number is four in their last six regular-season games to gain the No. 3 spot over the San Antonio Spurs. Portland can’t afford a repeat of what happened at Memphis.
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“We have to get Memphis back for that one,” Trail Blazers forward/center Zach Collins said. “We felt like we shouldn’t have lost that game at Memphis. We should have finished that road trip strong.”
The Grizzlies (21-55) have long been out of the playoff picture.
“They’re playing free and loose right now,” Collins said. “They’re getting up and down (with a fast-break offense). We have to be ready for that.”
“We were up seven points with five minutes left and lost,” said Portland guard CJ McCollum, who scored 42 points in the game at FedEx Forum. “But credit (the Grizzlies). They fought back and took the game from us. We have to be ready to compete and come out here and make the statement.
“We know they’re going to go out there and play hard. They have a lot of guys trying to compete for minutes, to establish themselves in the NBA or to get new contracts.”
The Blazers will be without starting small forward Moe Harkless (knee) and reserve power forward Ed Davis (ankle). Point guard Damian Lillard returned to action Friday after the birth of his first child, Damian Jr., compiling 17 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds in a 105-96 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers at Moda Center.
The Grizzlies are giving substantial minutes to reserves as they play out the season. Some people call it tanking; others say it is developing younger players. Center Marc Gasol is an example. In Friday’s 107-97 loss at Utah, the Grizzlies’ best player was 11 for 12 from the field, including 6 for 7 from 3-point range, while scoring 28 points in only 23 minutes. He didn’t play the final 16 minutes.
Gasol played the good soldier but seemed irritated by the lack of playing time.
“They’re just trying to compete,” Gasol said of the Memphis substitutes who were seeing more action. “I’m trying to help them with details and tell them where to be. Small things matter a lot, especially at the defensive end.”
One players who has taken advantage of his opportunity is MarShon Brooks, a 6-foot-5 guard signed to a 10-day contract after playing professionally in China the last three seasons.
In his two games with the Grizzlies, Brooks scored 24 points — including 14 in the fourth quarter — on 8-for-13 shooting against Portland, then scored 21 points on 7-for-12 shooting, including 5-for-5 from 3-point range, against Utah. Brooks has scored 45 points in 39 minutes.
“Coach (B.J. Bickerstaff) is making me feel comfortable,” Brooks said. “I’ve been gone for four years, out of the NBA, but I didn’t stop playing basketball. I’ve been getting high reps in China. When I came back on this 10-day (contract), I wanted to see how good I could play, so I’m happy with the progress so far.”