The NBA playoffs kick off this weekend with the Memphis Grizzlies and Portland Trail Blazers matching up in the first round. Both teams come hobbling into the playoffs with injuries galore. And while Memphis owned the Trail Blazers by sweeping them during the regular season, all previous records go out the window when it comes playoff time. Both teams are very physical and could potentially be a very entertaining matchup to watch.
The Portland Trail Blazers
Portland finished the regular season 51-31. LaMarcus Aldridge played through an injured thumb leading his team in scoring with 23.4 PTS and averaging 10.2 TRB. Damian Lillard averaged 12 PTS and 6.2 AST and continued to show why he is becoming one of the best guards in the league. Westley Matthews and his 3-point shooting dominance was a huge part and reason as to why the ‘Blazers are in the postseason, but unfortunately for them Matthews is out for the season.
Trail Blazers Offense/Defense
Portland ranks 8th in ORtg (offensive rating) and shot 45 percent during the season. According to DRtg they have the 10th best defensive rating. With all of Portland’s injuries, they will have to rely on C.J. McCollum. His pick-and-rolls could serve to be vital for a team full of injured question marks. But in the end, they will have to lean on a limped Aldridge (sprained left foot), who will have to take over the games, and rely on Nicolas Batum’s defense if Portland wants to win.
The Memphis Grizzlies
The Grizzlies finished the season 55-27 and even though they finished with a better record than the Trail Blazers, they are the 5th seed in the West due to an outdated division system. But don’t fret Grizzlies fans; you get to keep home-court advantage. The Grizz swept the ‘Blazers in all four of their matchups in the regular season led by Marc Gasol’s 18.8 PTS and shot a near 48 percent against its western foe. Zach Randolph, a double-double machine, averaged 16.5 PTS and 10.3 TRB against the ‘Blazers this season. Their defense was also large reason for their success in getting to the playoffs, which ranked 4th in the league in DRtg.
Don’t let their 13th best ORtg fool you. The Grizzlies have five, I repeat, five players that average double figures, including Mike Conley, Jeff Green and Courtney Lee. With Gasol and Randolph leading the way, the Grizzlies will need other key contributors to take the pressure off. Insert Green. Green was an absolute beast against the Trail Blazers. Against everyone else in the league, Green shoots 36 percent from beyond the arc. Against the Grizzlies—50 percent.
Grizzlies win in six games. Based on the fact that the Grizzlies have five players who score in double digits and have a strong defense to back it up, it’s hard to say no to Memphis. But when your team has LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard in your starting five, well, there won’t be any sweeping involved this go around.
Game 1: Sunday, Portland at Memphis, 7 p.m. CT
Game 2: Wed. April 22, Portland at Memphis, 7 p.m. CT
Game 3: Sat. April 25, Memphis at Portland, 9:30 p.m. CT (ESPN)
Game 4: Mon. April 27, Memphis at Portland, 9:30 p.m. CT
*Game 5: Wed. April 29, Portland at Memphis, TBD
*Game 6: Fri. May 1, Memphis at Portland, TBD
*Game 7: Sun. May 3, Portland at Memphis, TBD