Trail Blazers fade late, fall to Grizzlies 98-92


211. Final. 92. 34. 98

The Portland Trail Blazers opened up a double-digit lead on the Memphis Grizzlies despite not having LaMarcus Aldridge (right thumb sprain), but it wasn’t enough to carry the Trail Blazers through an awful fourth quarter stretch, and they fell to the Grizzlies 98-92.


Aldridge was unavailable due to a right thumb sprain… not to be confused with the left thumb ligament tear that Aldridge has delayed surgery to play through.

Meyers Leonard was the hero early on, taking a ton of shots and hitting more than half. He led all scorers with eight early points. Arron Afflalo opened his first appearance in a Trail Blazers uniform by coming in cold off the bench and canning a jumper. Early on, the team looked much more patient on offense and generally more competent than against the Jazz two nights ago. They happily took a 21-19 lead after one.

The Trail Blazers bench got work done, opening a 26-19 lead as Dorell Wright was playing inspired: Ripping away rebounds from three Grizzlies, hustling, and hitting some shots on the drive.

Meanwhile, Afflalo was part of a 20-8 run during his first shift, but the Grizzlies tied it at 32 as the Trail Blazers went five minutes without a field goal and soon found themselves down five. That was broken by a Batum fast break catch and dunk; 38-35 Memphis. Then Leonard hit a three to tie it. It was 38-all at the half, Leonard still leading all scorers with 11 points. Batum looked spritely with 7-5-2, Wright had 6-3-1 with a steal, and Afflalo added three points, four boards, and a steal.

You had a feeling neither team was content with a 38-point half, and the scoring opened up a bit for both teams, but especially for the Trail Blazers, in the third quarter. After a quiet first half, Damian Lillard hit a jumpshot, then a three and-1! Robin Lopez played security blanket on a Lillard miss, grabbing the offensive rebound and saving a possession.

The game was heated. Leonard was getting into it with Marc Gasol. Memphis Coach Dave Jaeger got hit with a tech, allowing Lillard to hit the free throw and tie it at 53. Some back-and-forth ensued: Conley three. Lillard finger roll off the fast break. Gasol jumper. Batum jumper. Bam. Bop. Biff.

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With the game close, Lillard and Batum hit threes, making it 65-60 in Portland’sfavor with three minutes to go in the third. Lopez worked snagged a tough offensive rebound, and the saved possession elicited a Stotts timeout with the Trail Blazers lead still 5. Then Blake and Afflalo and Blake again hit from deep. It was 74-62 Trail Blazers with 30 seconds to go in third. Then Blake hit another three, and the Moda Center went nuts. It was 77-64 Trail Blazers after three, and there was plenty to feel good about.

The Trail Blazers stalled a little to open the fourth, but the starters for both teams mostly resting. Blake hit yet another three, but the Trail Blazers stalled a little again. Off the Dorell Wright jumper and-1, Portland had a 85-75 lead with eight minutes to go in the game. That’s usually enough to make you feel pretty good about things.

But Memphis is a great team, and they punched back hard. Mostly by turning the screws on defense, which always flusters the Trail Blazers to a certain degree. Usually they can outlast pressure by having either Aldridge or Lillard bail them out, but, absent the former, the latter had more responsibility to shoulder. The result was turnovers. Lots of them. Portland had 15 when all was said and done, and several of them down the stretch.

Memphis outscored Portland 23-7 in the game’s final 7:52. As the Trail Blazers lead slowly turned into a deficit, the offense remained stifled. The Grizzlies scored easy points to which there was no answer, and there would be no comeback. The Trail Blazers fell, 98-92.


Welcome to Rip City, Arron Afflalo. He had 8-4-2 with a steal, but his numbers were hurt by being put back in as a desperation move by Stotts late when the game was slipping away. He does a lot of things well, and it’s very easy to see how he can help the team: he can drive, he can shoot, he has decent handles, and he can play great defense. Having him coming off the bench is an absolute luxury, and he will certainly be more effective after another week or two playing with the team.

Nicolas Batum had a double-double: 17 and 10 with five dimes. It was his second double-double of the season, and he looked as confident and aggressive as ever, particularly early (which, again, is a knock on pretty much every Blazer tonight).

Dorell Wright had a great game, playing with urgency for nine points, five boards, an assist and a steal. He looked like he belonged on the court.

Steve Blake hit all four of his threes en route to 13 points. Blake’s flurry to end the third felt like the turning point of a win. Instead it was the was pinnacle of a loss.

Damian Lillard had a great third quarter, and finished with 18-5-6, but he had just as hard of a time handling the Memphis pressure as every other Blazer did late. Some of his shots were highly contested, and one wondered how useful a solid floater would be for his game. He can so often get around people, but when facing the interior defense of the Grizzlies, it might not be very much fun to get to the rim. A reliable floater helps solve that problem. Food for thought.

Robin Lopez had seven rebounds, and six of them were o-boards. That’s a whole lot of extra possessions, which itself should be its own statistic. His impact was felt beyond his six points, seven boards, and two blocks.

Wesley Matthews missed every shot he took in a game he’d rather forget. He finished with four points in just under 36 minutes. He even looked somewhat out of sorts on defense, where he lost track of the red hot Courtney Lee more than once.

Meyers Leonard didn’t get much run in the second half after putting up 11 points in the first.


  • It came so easily for the Grizzlies on both ends of the floor in the game’s last several minutes. It was almost beautiful, or would have been had the Trail Blazers not been on the wrong end of it.
  • The Grizzlies outscored the Trail Blazers 34-15 in 4th quarter.
  • Portland need to right the ship. The Western Conference isn’t getting any easier, and while you could argue that the Trail Blazers had no business being in this one in the first place without Aldridge, the truth is that they had a late double-digit lead and blew it because they folded to pressure. Simple as that. Having Aldridge back and Afflalo familiarized with the team’s schemes will also be nice.

In short, things are not as bad as they might feel after a tough loss like this. The Trail Blazers play the Spurs on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. PST. No games off.

Next: How Afflalo impacts McCollum's role