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Second Overtime: Why the Blazers will KO the Grizz


PhilBoxing.com



Damian Lillard.

CHICAGO -- The Portland Trail Blazers remind me of a woman in a darkened bar who blinds you with the shimmer of her designer clothes and mesmerizes you with the scent of her Armani perfume.

But when you get past the shock and probe a little deeper, you see enough flaws to either flee the scene or check out some other chick.

Yes, Damian Lillard is amazing, the clear MVP of the restart. Through eight bubble games, he dropped 301 points and 78 assists to carry Portland from 10th place in the West standings to an eighth seed and a place in the play-in tournament.

But there are plenty of reasons why Portland isn't in the top four and wouldn't have had homecourt advantage if the pandemic hadn't closed all NBA arenas.

With an overall record of 35-39, Portland ranks 26th in the league in points allowed per game (116.1). They are 28th in defensive rating (114.8) and 12th in rebounding (45.3).

In other words, they don't rebound well and barely play any defense. Translation: Not exactly a championship contender.

In their dramatic last outing, the Blazers gave up 133 points to a Nets team that didn't have four of their five starters. Portland's defense was so porous that Joe Harris, a 3-point specialist who is white as a cumulus cloud, penetrated the lane like LeBron.

But the eye-popping highlight reels such as Lillard's brazen 3-point conversion that was hurled from Jerry West's thigh near the center court logo make us conveniently ignore Portland's wrinkles.

In a few hours, the Blazers can formally punch their play-off when they face a wounded Grizzlies team that faces a must-win-twice handicap as the ninth seed.

The NBA shouldn't trouble itself with scheduling a Game 2. Memphis will be one and done.

Lillard is unstoppable. I don't know if the man had just visited a volcano but his hands are hot as lava. He made 93 of 187 field goals during the seeding games. Drained 49 of 101 triples and 71 of 80 free throws including 18 for 18 while slapping the Mavericks with 61 points.

The Grizzlies can try to double Lillard, a dangerous dragnet which opens the floor for the resurgent Carmelo Anthony and smooth operator C.J. McCullom, who despite a broken bone in his back, has managed to erupt for 167 points in the bubble.

Thank God, no championship is being fought here and Portland's defensive deficiencies shouldn't be much of a problem against a Memphis crew that also has a myriad of issues.

The Grizzlies are 15th in the NBA in defensive rating and they are 21st in points allowed per at 113.7. That's why they went 2-6 in the bubble and 34-39 overall.

The Grizzlies are excellent at rebounding, fifth overall in the league at 46.5. But the Blazers, with bigs Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins back from injuries, have upped their rebounding production to 44 per, which greatly reduces their exposure.

Ja Morant, who norms 17.8 points and 7.3 assists an outing, is a dazzling figure to behold. Streak shooting, high-leaping and spectacular at finding the open teammate.

But without injured teammates Jaren Jackson Jr (17.8 points and 4.6 rebs per) and Tyus Jones (7.4 points and 4.4 assists per) the Grizzlies simply do not have the manpower and the firepower to match the peaking Blazers.

The Blazers not only have momentum beneath their wings, they also have been here before, tried and tested in the crucible of big moments.

Memphis has a lot of skill and will. It does not have the but experience to navigate the emotional tides of a pressure-packed win or go home duel.

The Blazers-Grizzlies knockout encounter is just a few hours away. So get some sleep and set your alarm clocks at Dame Time.


Click here to view a list of other articles written by Homer D. Sayson.


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