After 82 long games and a season of highs and lows, the NBA Playoffs have arrived and the Memphis Grizzlies (5th seed) will host the Portland Trailblazers (4th seed) in the first round. Though Portland is technically the higher seed, Memphis has a better record, and thus home court advantage. In anticipation of the series getting underway this weekend, our friends from Choose901 asked us to provide the basics that every Memphian needs to know as we get underway. Remember: this is an overview of the basics and big picture, but in-depth analysis and game coverage can be found at 3 Shades of Blue and on 3SOBRadio on Saturday mornings from 9-11 on Sports 56 (FM 87.7/AM 560).
Schedule/Tickets: (all times Central)
- Game 1 – Sunday, April 19, 2015 @ FedEx Forum – 7:00pm (TNT)
- Game 2 – Wednesday, April 22, 2015 @ FedEx Forum – 7:00pm (TNT)
- Game 3 – Saturday, April 25, 2015 @ Portland – 9:30pm (ESPN)
- Game 4 – Monday, April 27, 2015 @ Portland – 9:30pm (TNT)
- Game 5* – Wednesday, April 29, 2015 @ FedEx Forum – TBD (TBD)
- Game 6* – Friday, May 1, 2015 @ Portland – TBD (TBD)
- Game 7* – Sunday, May 3, 2015 @ FedEx Forum – TBD (TBD)
- * If necessary
At last check, there are still some tickets for Games 1 and 2 available directly from the Grizzlies through Ticketmaster, but the team has sold out 20 consecutive home playoff games and those tickets will go quickly now that the schedule is finalized. As always, the secondary market (TicketMonster, Stubhub, etc.) is flush with tickets in every price range.
While the playoff games will be broadcast nationally by TNT/ESPN/ABC, the first round will also feature the normal local Fox Sports broadcast with Pete Pranica, Brevin Knight, Rob Fischer and the rest of the great broadcast team.
Regular Season Meetings:
The Grizzlies swept all 4 games from Portland during the regular season, including two wins in Portland. Here are the regular season results, with a link to the box score for each game:
- November 28, 2014 – @ Portland: Grizzlies 112, Trailblazers 99
- January 17, 2015 – @ Memphis: Grizzlies 102, Trailblazers 98
- February 22, 2015 – @ Portland: Grizzlies 98, Trailblazers 92
- March 21, 2015 – @ Memphis: Grizzlies 97, Trailblazers 86
While this is a positive indicator for Memphis, this will be a competitive series.
Previewing the Series:
More than any other first-round series, Memphis v. Portland is going to be decided largely by the quality of the teams’ athletic trainers. Both squads come into the playoffs with significant injury concerns, and uncertainty about whether or when their key players will be available. Here is the Portland injury situation, as of the final regular season game:
- Wesley Matthews – OUT with a torn left Achilles.
- LaMarcus Aldridge – PROBABLE but struggling with a left foot strain (in addition to a torn tendon in his left thumb that will require off-season surgery).
- Arron Afflalo – QUESTIONABLE with a right shoulder strain
- Dorell Wright – DOUBTFUL with a broken left hand
- Nic Batum – PROBABLE with a right knee contusion
- Chris Kaman – QUESTIONABLE with a strained back
- CJ McCollum – PROBABLE with a left ankle sprain
As you can see, about half of the Trailblazers roster is dealing with some type of injury. At this point, Wesley Matthews is the only player that is certain not to play, and the longer the series goes, the more likely the other guys get healthy and play.
The Grizzlies are not quite as banged up as the Trailblazers, but have serious injury concerns of their own. In particular, the health of Mike Conley and Tony Allen may be problematic for Memphis. Conley missed the final 4 regular season games with “soreness in his left foot”, which some have speculated is plantar fasciitis. TA, the Grizzlies’ resident chaos machine, has not played since March 27th (9 games) due to right hamstring injury. While fans and media have speculated that Conley and Allen would be ready to go for the playoffs, Coach Joerger said following the regular season finale that they would not have been able to play even if Wednesday’s finale had been a playoff game. There is technically no timetable for their return, and we will have to see whether they are seriously injured or if Coach Joerger is employing some gamesmanship to make it more difficult for Portland to prepare for Game 1.
In addition to Conley and TA, the Grizzlies are nursing some other nagging injuries that haven’t kept guys off the court, but warrant observation as we move forward. Marc Gasol sprained his left ankle on April 11th but has played through the pain. Also, Jeff Green has been struggling with back spasms but has not yet missed time.
There are thousands of words to be written between now and Sunday about how these teams match-up on the Court, and I will leave that analysis to better writers than myself, but the quick synopsis is this:
Portland’s offensive strength is generating points from the perimeter, where they were 3rd in the NBA in three-point attempts per game, which they hit at a 36.3% clip. The Grizzlies, on the other hand, were 29th (out of 30 teams) in three-point attempts per game, but 1st in paint points at 47.1 points per game. Neither team is known for running out for fast break opportunities, though Portland plays at a slightly faster pace (96.3) than Memphis (94.3), largely because it takes more time to get offense in the paint (as Memphis prefers) than it does from the perimeter (as Portland prefers).
Portland’s defensive strength is that they’ve defended the perimeter extremely well, but that is not where Memphis will be looking to do damage. On the flip side, the Grizzlies perimeter defense is rather pedestrian, and will need to step up and force Portland to try to score inside, where the Grizzlies defense is the strongest. Unlike Memphis, Portland is not known for forcing turnovers, ranking dead last in TO% (12.4%) while Memphis was 6th (16%). Neither team is known for its shot-blocking, but both teams rebound approximately 75% of their defensive rebound opportunities.
This is going to be an exciting, competitive series, and Memphis fans need to be prepared to pack out FedExForum and continue our reputation of being a tough place for opponents to play in the post-season. Until then, stay tuned to 3sob.com for more news, analysis and coverage of the Grizzlies!
Jonathan May is a contributor to 3 Shades of Blue (3sob.com) and co-host of 3SOBRadio (Saturday mornings from 9-11 on Sports56). He is a sixth generation Memphian and lives in East Memphis with his wife, Emily, and their children, Holden and Lucy. When he isn’t writing or talking about the Grizzlies, Jonathan is an attorney with Lewis Thomason. You can find Jonathan on twitter at @jmay11.