After suffering back-to-back one-point losses the last two games, the Portland Trail Blazers were looking for the perfect get-right game vs. the Memphis Grizzlies on home court.
Instead, Portland was put away once again in the final moments by Memphis, falling for the fourth-straight game and sliding in the Western Conference standings to seventh.
The Blazers gave up 130 points and allowed a season-high 74 points in the paint and 29 in transition while the Grizzlies shot 53 percent from the floor.
Memphis’ Ja Morant stole the show with 33 points, 13 assists and 5 rebounds, but another Grizzlies player deserves some credit for his quick, pestering defense of one of the NBA’s best shooters.
Former Oregon Ducks phenom Dillon Brooks played lockdown defense on Damian Lillard early on and it’s safe to say Dame was not about that life. Things got testy and words were exchanged in the first quarter.
Lillard was 0-6 when the chirping began with Brooks, before hitting 6 of his next 9 shots from the field.
When asked about trying to contain the Blazers six-time All-Star, Brooks said post-game that the goal was to “just try to tire him out, try to full court him every single time, give him some physicality, give him something different that, you know, a lot of players don’t give it to him. Physicality, a little trash talking, making every single shot tough…
After a slow start, Lillard caught fire in the second half, scoring high off the glass to give Portland the lead with two minutes to go. For the game, Lillard still managed 27 points, 5 assists and 3 rebounds in 37 minutes of play.
Brooks added 25 points, 3 assists, and 2 rebounds as the Grizzlies defeated the Blazers 130-128 in the two teams’ first matchup of the year. While Memphis came away with the victory in Round 1, the Trail Blazers will see them again on Sunday at Moda Center as both teams battle for playoff positioning in the Western Conference.
Portland fell to 32-27 and is now a half-game behind Dallas (32-26) in seventh place, while the Grizzlies (30-28) are in eighth place and trail the Blazers by 1 1/2 games.
Brooks will once again be assigned with the daunting task of defending the Trail Blazers star. The former Ducks standout was built for this.
“It’s tough, a lot of guys can’t do it,” Brooks said. “And I want to be that guy that can. Guarding the best player with detail and intelligence, and going down be patient, wait for your spots and knock ‘em down...