Two of the NBA’s most resurgent teams will face off on the next to last day of action before the All-Star break as the Memphis Grizzlies play host to the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday.
The Grizzlies enter with seven victories in their past nine games, including a 106-99 road win over the Washington Wizards on Sunday.
The Trail Blazers are coming off a 138-117 defeat at New Orleans on Tuesday but still have won six of nine games going back to a 139-129 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Jan. 26.
Grizzlies rookie Ja Morant is asserting himself more each day, recording the first triple-double of his career on Sunday. He torched the Wizards for 27 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds. The triple-double came in the 47th game of his career.
His time on the scene might be short, but Morant showed he knows how to handle the spoils of a productive night and has solid feel for what it means to be a teammate.
“Obviously a lot of credit goes to my teammates,” Morant said. “Without them, I would not be able to have that triple-double. (They) played a big part in the assist column (and) boxing their man out, and I was just getting long rebounds. It is definitely a special moment, a special night. I am thankful for it.”
The Murray State product, the second player selected in the 2019 NBA Draft, is averaging 17.6 points, 3.5 rebounds and 7.0 assists per game.
Morant not only posted a season-high total in rebounds, but he also had his highest point total since he netted 30 in the third game of the season. The output helped the Grizzlies rally from a 10-point, third-quarter deficit.
“We’ve got a young team. We got new guys coming into the fold, he’s taken on an added leadership role,” Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins told reporters about Morant. “He’s a leader of the team, and he’s goes out there and does it by example, but also vocally, it just empowers the rest of the group, and that’s why we rallied (Sunday).”
While a rookie has sparked the Grizzlies, a proven veteran has pushed the Blazers to some midseason success. Damian Lillard is putting up 29.7 points per game on the season, but he is scoring 39.5 points per game since he scored a franchise-record 61 points in a Jan. 20 victory over the Golden State Warriors.
The 20 points Lillard scored in the Tuesday defeat to the Pelicans was his lowest output since he also had 20 in a Jan. 9 defeat to the Minnesota Timberwolves. He shot 6 of 16 against New Orleans and did not make a 3-pointer in four attempts.
Portland scored 65 points in the first half against the Pelicans but was outscored 41-21 in the decisive third quarter.
“We gave up a lot of transition (points), and some of it was us and some of it was them,” Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts told reporters afterward about the third quarter. “I think the box (score) had them for 17 fast-break points. When we didn’t score, they were getting out and running with it.”
–Field Level Media