Trail Blazers identify mistakes, get back to business in Game 2


The Portland Trail Blazers were outplayed by the Memphis Grizzlies in Game 1. Everyone who saw it knows that. At this point, most who didn’t see it know as well.

But before overreacting to Game 1, let’s consider the circumstances. The NBA Playoffs are set up to give the home team an advantage in Game 1. Again, everyone knows that.

Teams that win the first game of the playoff series, obviously, have a better chance of advancing to the next round; however, road teams have one task heading into the first two games of the series: win one.

It doesn’t matter which game, but if a road team can steal one game on the road in the first two games of the series, the series, then, flips in their favor. That’s what Portland has at stake in Game 2, which tips off tonight at 5:00 p.m. PST.

Portland could have lost by 100 points in Game 1, and they would still have the ability to take control of the series. They “only” lost by 14, after trailing by as many as 29 in the third quarter.

I am not saying Portland has an advantage or that there is some silver lining that everyone is missing. That’s not the case at all. Memphis is a terrible matchup for Portland, and they’ve beaten the Trail Blazers five times this season already.

Consider this, though:

Memphis has the fifth-best home record in the league (31-10).

Portland has the fourth-best home record in the league (32-9).

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Even if Portland loses in Game 2, there is still a decent chance the series could go to a sixth or seventh game, simply, based on how much better each team is at home than on the road.

Beating a team five times in one season is difficult. Beating a team eight times with the talent that the Trail Blazers have would be even harder.

The Trail Blazers are banged up and injured, sure. They are definitely at a disadvantage, even against a Grizzlies team that is also dealing with it’s share of bumps, bruises, and sprains. Yet, even in the blowout, there were lessons to be learned that Portland can build on in Game 2.

1. Beno Udrih scored 20 points. 

I think we can primarily attribute this to Steve Blake and Damian Lillard‘s poor defense in Game 1. Udrih has only scored 20-plus points one other time this season. If Lillard and Blake are able to contain him and Udrih plays like his normal self, he’s not scoring 20 points again.

2. Even with Udrih’s 20 points, Memphis only scored 100 points. 

Memphis only shot 44 percent from the field in the game. If Portland can only figure out how to score against Memphis’ stingy, physical defense, the defense is where it needs to be at this point of the seasons for the Trail Blazers.

3. The Trail Blazers out-rebounded the Grizzlies. 

It’s true; Portland won the battle on the boards 56-48, and 16-8 on the offensive glass. If Portland can win the rebounding battle each night, the shots and second-chance opportunities are going swing the series Portland’s way, especially once the series goes back to Portland.

4. Arron Afflalo didn’t play in Game 1. 

Nursing a shoulder injury, Afflalo is warming up for Game 2 in Memphis. At this point, it would be surprising if he did not play. Even at 50 percent, Afflalo would be a better option than Allen Crabbe or 37 minutes of C.J. McCollum.

5. Damian Lillard was 5-of-21 from the field and 0-6 from 3-point range. 

That’s huge… If Lillard can get back in a rhythm and knock in a few threes, that’s going to give LaMarcus Aldridge more room to work and possibly open up opportunities for his teammates.

I have a much better feeling about Game 2 than I did heading into Game 1. Portland knew they had to get one at Memphis. Game 2 is an even better opportunity since they know the mistakes that they need to fix.

Next: Blazers mauled by Grizzlies, 82-97