Grizzlies-Trail Blazers Preview
The Portland Trail Blazers aren't missing Damian Lillard very much, thanks in large part to C.J. McCollum and Allen Crabbe.
They may need continued strong efforts with Lillard's status shrouded in mystery.
McCollum and Crabbe will try to help the Trail Blazers to a fourth straight win at home Monday night against the Memphis Grizzlies.
For the first time since drafting Lillard in 2012, Portland (15-21) is dealing with an injury to its star guard.
So far, it's going pretty well. The Trail Blazers are 4-3 since Lillard went down with plantar fasciitis in his left foot, but they've won four of the last five games while averaging 104.2 points.
McCollum and Crabbe are big reasons why Portland has been able to withstand the absence of its leading scorer. McCollum is averaging 30.3 points over the last four games on 54.4 percent from the floor, including 14 of 30 from 3-point range.
Crabbe has chipped in with 16.6 per game since replacing Lillard in the lineup. He averaged 9.8 points while being used exclusively as a reserve over the first 29 games.
After Lillard was a late scratch Sunday, McCollum and Crabbe combined for 39 points in a 112-106 win at Denver.
"We need C.J. to do what he's doing," coach Terry Stotts said. "He's got a great knack for scoring, but I think he defends his position well. He's running the offense well. It goes beyond just scoring."
McCollum has made his presence felt against Memphis, averaging 24.6 points while sinking 17 of 28 3s over the last five meetings. That includes the final three games of last year's opening-round playoff series, which the Grizzlies won in five.
He scored 26 while Lillard only managed 11 at Memphis on Nov. 13, but it was Zach Randolph's put-back with less than a second to play that delivered the Grizzlies a 101-100 victory.
Memphis (18-17) has won 14 of the past 17 meetings with the Blazers, including playoffs. However, the Grizzlies have lost the last two visits to Portland after falling 115-96 on Nov. 5.
Marc Gasol is averaging 23.6 points during the past five overall matchups after scoring 31 on Nov. 13.
The center came up short in the clutch Saturday, missing an open jumper from the elbow in the final second of regulation before Memphis lost 92-87 in overtime at Utah. He finished with 20 points, seven boards, four assists and two blocks, as the Grizzlies lost their sixth in seven road games.
"I had a good look," Gasol said. "I didn't get my feet right. I couldn't believe I was that wide open and then I rushed it a little bit on my release."
Mike Conley is finding consistency after a slow start to the season. The guard is averaging 18.5 points while making 41.9 percent from behind the arc over the last eight games after scoring 10.3 over the previous six and missing 19 of 28 3-point attempts.
"He is feeling better physically," coach Dave Joerger said. "He is also shooting the basketball better. I think one helps the other, whatever side you want to look at first. ... He has shot the basketball very well."
Conley hasn't done that against Portland this season, averaging 9.0 points while making 6 of 21 from the field.
The Grizzlies will have forward Matt Barnes back from his two-game suspension for his involvement in an altercation with New York Knicks coach Derek Fisher in October.