As Trail Blazers looked to end a five-game home skid Sunday in an important Western Conference positioning game against the Memphis Grizzlies, Portland leaned heavily on Carmelo Anthony in the final period.
But the Grizzlies continued to execute their game plan of getting out and running.
After frustrations mounted for the Blazers in the second half, it looked like Memphis was going to run away with it.
But it was Melo's play on both ends that provided a big spark at the start of the fourth quarter. Anthony helped the Blazers cut the lead to five. Memphis had entered the fourth with a 12-point lead.
Anthony's scoring and his chirping at the Grizzlies bench breathed new life into the Blazers. Yet it wasn't enough as Ja Morant and Dillon Brooks put the game away down the stretch. Memphis defeated Portland, 120-113.
Memphis held a 23-20 lead at the end of the first quarter.
With Portland still searching for answers on the defensive end, the Grizzlies sped up the game while looking to get out in transition every chance they could. At the break, the Grizzlies were up 58-47.
After leading by as many as 16 points in the third quarter, CJ McCollum’s three-point shooting helped the Blazers claw back midway through the third to cut it to eight.
However, that didn't last long.
Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts changed up his rotation Sunday. When Memphis’ small second unit entered the game, the Blazers matched it with a frontcourt of Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Derrick Jones Jr. and Carmelo Anthony.
Portland was still without Zach Collins (left ankle stress fracture), while Memphis was without Jaren Jackson Jr. (left knee; return from injury management).
In the battle on the boards, the Blazers struggled to keep up with the Grizzlies on the glass in the first half, except for Jusuf Nurkic.
Nurk notched 10 rebounds by halftime.
Portland’s three-point shooting helped keep them in the game against a young, hungry Grizzlies squad. The Blazers went 7-of-16 from deep in the first half. Portland finished the game 14-for-38.
Even though he played through a lot of contact and wasn’t getting baskets to fall at the rim or getting many calls, Damian Lillard was a perfect 3-for-3 from behind the arc in the first half. Lillard finished with 23 points and six rebounds. CJ McCollum added 27.
Memphis jumped out to a quick 10-2 lead behind the play from its wings and once again got out into transition. Six of the Grizzlies’ first 10 points were off made baskets on the break.
Jonas Valanciunas returned after missing Friday’s matchup against the Blazers due to concussion protocol. Valanciunas’s efficient three-point shooting made the Blazers bigs work even more on the defensive end. The Grizzlies starting center finished with 21 points after hitting 3-for-3 from three. He also pulled down 10 rebounds.
Frustrations seemed to boil over following the first quarter for Portland. Robert Covington was charged with a technical foul after auguring a non-foul call, while CJ McCollum was whistled for a flagrant one after hip checking Dillion Brooks midway through the third. To finish the third, Carmelo Anthony and Brooks were hit with offsetting technicals after the two exchanged words during a pair free throws. Brooks was not in the game and instead standing on the baseline.
When it looked like the game could start to get out of hand, it was a Lillard three to the rescue near the end of the second half.
Memphis notched 33 fastbreak points for the game to Portland’s 26.
Next up: The Trail Blazers will embark in a six-game road trip, starting in Indiana on Tuesday. The Blazers and Pacers are set to tip-off at 4:00 p.m. PT on NBCSNW, the official network of the Portland Trail Blazers.