What a game!
In the first play-in contest of the NBA restart, the Trail Blazers started on the attack against the Memphis Grizzlies. Portland went to the free throw line early and often.
The Blazers' 16-2 run midway through the first quarter pushed Portland's quick start to a 31-19 lead after the first 12 minutes.
But early in the second quarter, it was all Memphis and more specifically, it was all Jonas Valanciunas. The Grizzlies big man scored 14 points in the second quarter helping Memphis get back in the game.
In Saturday's game of runs, the Trail Blazers then turned to the Damian Lillard and Jusuf Nurkic pick and roll. Nurkic put on a show. The Blazers led by six at halftime as Nurkic scored 15 points and pulled down a whopping 17 rebounds in the first half.
As several NBA teams do, the Grizzlies focused on Damian Lillard and made someone else put points on the board. Fortunately for the Blazers, that someone else was Nurkic.
Portland was forced to go with a big lineup of Nurkic and Hassan Whiteside late in the first and third quarters after Zach Collins left the game with left ankle inflammation. The Blazers announced at the start of the second quarter that Collins was questionable to return. He did not return after playing just seven minutes.
Blazers rookie Wenyen Gabriel started in place of Collins to begin the second half.
Memphis’ rookie sensation Ja Morant came alive in the third quarter to help the Grizzlies take a 94-89 lead heading into the fourth.
Just as Blazers fans have become accustomed to, the Trail Blazers' first play-in game came down to the wire.
However, Portland flexed its experience on the young Memphis team with timely stops and key threes from both CJ McCollum and Carmelo Anthony along with clutch free throws.
And now the Trail Blazers are heading to the 2019-20 NBA playoffs.
Here are three quick takeaways from Portland's first play-in game from our NBC Sports NW team:
Dwight Jaynes, Insider:
Blazers were so tired in the final quarter they had trouble tracking rebounds… Same script as previous games, except it wasn’t Dame saving them this time — a combo of Nurkic, Melo and CJ
It appears that Lillard is going to have to go out and score a couple of dozen in the fourth to rescue them.— Dwight Jaynes (@dwightjaynes) August 15, 2020
Allowing 42 points in the third quarter is taking that “bad third quarter" thing way too far— Dwight Jaynes (@dwightjaynes) August 15, 2020
Jamie Hudson, Reporter
The intensity in this play-in game was there, the scoring was there, and what else can you say about Jusuf Nurkic? The Trail Blazers big man poured his heart and soul into this game and was clearly mad when Blazers head coach Terry Stotts subbed him out in the third quarter. The big fella played a crazy 40 minutes and gave it all that he had on both ends, which Portland needed every bit of play and passion on the floor. Plus, CJ McCollum came up big down the stretch.
Mike Richman, Reporter
Jusuf Nurkic showed why he's so special. CJ McCollum delivered in big moments and the Blazers got big contributions late from the vet, Carmelo Anthony, and the young guy, Gary Trent Jr. Now they get two much needed days off.
[Listen to the Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon and special guest Kevin Love]:
Up Next: The Trail Blazers will face the Los Angeles Lakers in the first game of the Western Conference First Round playoff series Tuesday at 6:00 p.m. (PT). Catch all the action on NBC Sports Northwest and stream the game on the MyTeams app.
Also, be sure to check back throughout the rest of the day and tomorrow morning for analysis, articles, and videos from the players!