Portland Trail Blazers (51-31) vs. Memphis Grizzlies (55-27)
Portland and Memphis are two of the most compelling teams out West. Every year they have stretches during the regular season where they look unbeatable and then around playoff time they become super vulnerable. During the offseason both teams improved their bench to a certain extent and during the season made moves that were supposed to propel them to the top of the conference.
In order to beat certain teams in the West Portland had to upgrade their bench. They swung a deal with Denver that allowed them to bring in shooting guard Aaron Afflalo, a nice two-way player. Memphis on the other hand needed a wing player who could create their own shot, score and defend. They made a trade with Boston who sent them small forward Jeff Green. Both of these moves catapulted each team to newer heights. Each team improved depth wise, scoring wise and defensively. But it only lasted for so long.
PG: D.Lillard vs. M.Conley
SG: A.Afflalo vs. C.Lee
SF: N.Batum vs. T.Allen
PF: L.Aldridge vs. Z.Randolph
C: R.Lopez vs. M.Gasol
As the season went on both teams were derailed by injuries. Batum and Aldridge have been ailing and missed a few games here and there. Aaron Affalo has an injured shoulder and starting shooting guard Wesley Mathews is out for the season due to an Achilles injury. Memphis on the other have been dealing with injuries that have pertained to Marc Gasol, Mike Conley and Tony Allen. Both teams are still formidable to say the least.
Memphis won the season series 4-0. Most of the games were competitive but Memphis proved to be the better squad.
Despite being the 4 seed the Blazers will be playing this series on the road where they have struggled. In order to beat Memphis the Blazers need to push the tempo. The Grizz often go long periods without scoring and if Portland can hit shots they’ll have Memphis playing from behind. On the defensive side of the ball Aldridge and Lopez must find a way to stop Memphis’ big men. If they get dominated in the paint the Blazers can hang it up.
The Grizzlies smothering defense gets a chance to go up against a depleted Blazers. If Conley can contain Lillard and Gasol can disrupt Aldridge’s flow the Blazers will have to find scoring else where. On the offensive end Memphis just needs to pund the rock inside. There isn’t a team in the league that can contend with Memphis’ front court and that should be on full display this series.
Prediction Grizzlies beat the Blazers 4-1. Both teams are dealing with injuries but Memphis is the healthier squad. If Z-Bo and Gasol are dominating the series will end quickly. Having homecourt advantage also is Memphis’ favor.