Memphis Grizzlies vs. Portland Trail Blazers Play-In Preview

The Memphis Grizzlies and the Portland Trail Blazers will be battling for the final spot in the NBA playoffs. The Trail Blazers finished eighth in the Western Conference with a record of 35 wins and 49 losses. This is while the Grizzlies finished ninth in the Western Conference with 34 wins and 39 losses.

The Grizzlies were tied with the Phoenix Suns, who won all their eight games in the bubble. This is because the Grizzlies won the tiebreaker as they won three of the four-season matchups against the Suns.

Play-In Preview: Memphis Grizzlies vs. Portland Trail Blazers

Offense

The Trail Blazers have won the offensive battle over the Memphis Grizzlies. The Trail Blazers are sixth in points per game with 115 points per game while the Memphis Grizzlies are 14th in points per game with 112.6 points per game according to stats.nba.com. The one statistic the Grizzlies need to be aware of is the three-point shooting percentage.

According to stats.nba.com, the Trail Blazers have the third-best three-point shooting percentage while the Grizzlies have the twenty-third best shooting percentage. The other major advantage the Trail Blazers have is the free-throw percentage. The Trail Blazers are third with an 80.4 free-throw percentage. The Memphis Grizzlies are only 19th in the league with a 76.3 percent free-throw percentage.

However, the Memphis Grizzlies have a massive advantage in assists per game. According to stats.nba.com, the Grizzlies are second in the league in assists per game, while the Trail Blazers are last. This means that the Trail Blazers do not move the ball, which is something the Grizzlies should take advantage of.

The Memphis Grizzlies also have a better field goal percentage. They are ninth in field goal percentage while the Trail Blazers are 14th. Lastly, both teams are tied for 14th in offensive rebounds with the Orlando Magic according to stats.nba.com.

Defense

Both teams are not great at the defensive end, particularly the Trail Blazers, who are 27th with a 114.3 defensive rating. Moreover, the Memphis Grizzlies are 14th with a 109.7 defensive rating according to stats.nba.com.

Defensive rebounding is also a big concern for the Trail Blazers. Their defensive rebounding percentage is 28th in the NBA while the Memphis Grizzlies are 15th. Defense is an area the Memphis Grizzlies can exploit as the Trail Blazers are not a good defensive team.

Players to Watch – Memphis Grizzlies vs. Portland Trail Blazers

Damian Lillard is the best player in the series. He is third in the NBA with 30 points per game according to landofbasketball.com. This includes scoring 60, 51, and 42 in his last three games according to nba.com. He also made history being only the second player in NBA history to have at least three 60-point games in an NBA season.

Stopping Lillard in the NBA bubble will be a tough task. According to cbssports.com, there are many players averaging over 10 points per game. This includes four players who played a significant part of the NBA season. This includes Carmelo Anthony, Hassan Whiteside, and CJ McCollum. However, as mentioned before, the Trail Blazers are not a good defensive team.

The Grizzlies also have some great offensive players. Ja Morant leads the way with 17.8 points per game. However, there is also Jaren Jackson, Dillon Brooks, Jonas Valanciunas, and Brandon Clarke. They all average above 10 points per game according to nba.com.

The key player for the Grizzlies is Valanciunas. He is their rebound leader with 11.3 rebounds per game according to nba.com. Furthermore, the Trail Blazers are not a great rebounding team. Their defensive rebounding percentage is third-lowest in the NBA. The Grizzlies will need Valanciunas to prevent second-chance opportunities for the Trail Blazers.

For the Grizzlies, Mike Conley will also be needed. He leads both teams in steals with 1.3 steals per game according to landofbasketball.com. Lillard and Maurice Harkless have the most steals for the Trail Blazers with 1.1 steals per game. If the Grizzlies have any chance of getting past the Trail Blazers, they will need to play well defensively.

Bubble Performances

The Memphis Grizzlies were eighth in the Western Conference before the NBA resumed their season in a bubble. However, they did not play well in the bubble only winning two of their eight games. They have also allowed more than 100 points in all but one game. That game was against the Oklahoma City Thunder, where the Grizzlies won 121-92.

Their other win in the bubble was against the Milwaukee Bucks where many players stepped up. Brooks had the most points for the Memphis Grizzlies with 31 points. Furthermore, Valanciunas and Morant both had triple-doubles, which played a key role in defeating the Bucks.

The Trail Blazers went into the bubble on the outside looking in. It did not look likely that they would grab the eighth seed. However, after the Trail Blazers went 6-2 in the bubble they were able to take the eighth seed in the Western Conference. This included an incredible game by Lillard, who scored 42 points and also had 12 assists and three rebounds against the Brooklyn Nets.

Overview of the NBA Playoff Play-In Preview

It is important to note that the Grizzlies are the ninth seed so they will need to win two straight games to make the NBA playoffs. The Trail Blazers only need to win one of the two games to make the NBA playoffs.

It is going to be difficult for the Grizzlies to make the NBA playoffs. Yes, the Trail Blazers have glaring weaknesses with their defense, but they are also an incredibly gifted offensive team.

Furthermore, the defense of the Grizzlies is only average. Their defensive rating has improved in the NBA bubble though as they are ranked sixth according to stats.nba.com. The Trail Blazers could be tired after the intense game against the Nets. This may allow the Grizzlies to win one game, but it is unlikely that they will win both games.

The Trail Blazers are also a more experienced playoff team and are in a better form than the Grizzlies in the bubble. They have been in the NBA playoffs six years in a row. The Grizzlies have not made the NBA playoffs since 2017 and the Blazers are more gifted offensively. These two factors will be a big reason why the Trail Blazers are expected to make their seventh-straight NBA playoff appearance.

The first of possibly two games will take place tomorrow at 2:30 PM eastern time. The winner of the play-in will play the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the NBA playoffs. According to NBA.com, both teams split the season series 1-1 in the 2019-20 NBA season.

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