MEMPHIS – It was a case of too many turnovers and too much Mike Conley Tuesday night for the Trail Blazers.
And maybe just one too many games on a road trip that lasted two full weeks.
Conley made 12 of 18 shots, including six of seven from three-point distance, on the way to a career-high 40 points, to almost single-handedly defeat the Trail Blazers, 120-11.
And that after Portland raced to a 16-point lead in the first quarter and seemed prepared to finish off a seven-game road trip with a 6-1 record.
But that didn’t happen.
The Blazers had 20 turnovers, which the Grizzlies turned into 20 points, and the game that seemed the most winnable of them all on this trip turned into a painful loss.
“We didn’t defend very well,” said CJ McCollum, whose 27 points lead the Trail Blazers. “Second quarter we gave up 41 points, A lot of the same in the third quarter. In the fourth quarter – a lot of fouls and they got a lot of easy baskets.
“We’ve got to do a better job of keeping them off the free-throw line and out of the bonus.”
The Blazers shot 53.2 percent from the floor and they usually win when they shoot well. But there was a big disparity at the foul line and, in fact, Portland didn’t get a free throw in the third quarter and only seven in the fourth.
For the game, the Grizzlies shot 15 more foul shots than the Trail Blazers.
“We started the game off well and we kind of let up,” Damian Lillard said. “We gave them life. We put ourselves in a bad position.
“I guess the aggressor gets the benefit of the doubt. We just barely touched them sometimes and they shot 15 more free throws than us. Then they started making shots.
“When a team is making shots and you can’t touch them, then you’re really in trouble.
“The only way you shoot that well and lose is when you don’t get stops. Obviously, they shot the ball well and we didn’t do enough about that.
“Obviously, our plan was to go home 6-1 (on the trip). That would have been great for us to get six wins out of this trip. A long trip and a lot of tough games. I think we can say it was a good trip. A great trip would have been 6-1. This one was tough.”
Lillard was asked about the frequent refrain from Trail Blazer fans on social media – that it’s just like that team to post some good wins, then turn around and lose a game it was expected to win.
The term people are using is “Blazer-y.”
“That’s easy for somebody who doesn’t have to go out there and play to say,” Lillard said. “First of all, we’ve been out on the road for about three weeks (counting the all-star break), traveling city to city and playing tough teams, and then we came here to play an NBA team. We didn’t come here to play the Washington Generals. They’ve got good players. I think that’s more disrespectful to them than anything.
“(Fans) don’t understand it. They don’t have to do what we do. I don’t expect anything else – for somebody to say, ‘Oh, we lost. We crashed.’ I don’t think we crashed. We lost. They played well.”
And the trip ended on a sad note for the team and the quiet locker room told that story better than anything that was said.
Yet, Portland returns home with a 39-25 record for what could be a pivotal game Thursday night against Oklahoma City --- two teams battling for the No. 3 seed in the conference.
“Obviously, both teams know it’s a big game,” Portland Coach Terry Stotts said. “As far as playoff seeding, they already have the tiebreaker on us. They’ve beaten us all three times this season.
“It should be a good game.”