One last game to wrap up a stellar streak of the season. The Memphis Grizzlies reached Phil Jackson’s “40 to 20” golden contender theory, as they entered this game 41-18. They are also 32-8 in their last 40 games. They just play elite basketball, and it’s a shame we have to take a break from the action.
Tonight they faced a new Portland Trail Blazers team who look invigorated from their flurry of trade deals. The Grizzlies fell into the “last game before all-stars break” trap and dug themselves into a hole too deep too soon. Despite late efforts, the Blazers came away with a 123-119 win.
Ja Morant, the perfect tune-up game for an All-Star starter
After sitting out last night’s game with ankle pain, Ja Morant returned to the lineup and didn’t miss a beat.
He apparently came to the basket at will, which is an evergreen statement at this point. He also came to the line at will, looking like Dwyane Wade in the 2006 Finals. Portland just didn’t have any answers for him, and he acknowledged that when he rampaged inside the paint. .
Morant finished with 44 points, 11 assists and 5 rebounds, while making a franchise-record 25 free throw attempts (made 21).
All-Star starter Ja Morant played as one of the best — if not the best — guards in the entire association. He also built a case for being an MVP candidate as well. Tonight was a big statement game for those two honors.
Arrived at the All-Star break
Look, it’s the second half of a straight streak, and it’s the day before the All-Star break. The urgency was not there. These things happen here and there, especially for playoff teams heading into the All-Star break. You could see the lack of energy and urgency from their guys, and that particularly stuck with Jaren Jackson Jr. and Steven Adams.
The Portland Trail Blazers are full of teams looking for shots in the league, and they’re pesky too. They hit a bunch of shots and took advantage of the Grizzlies’ lethargic defense. It happens, it’s the NBA.
Well, they’re at the All-Star break. It will be well deserved.
- Desmond Bane was also gearing up for the All-Star weekend festivities. Bane looked like a rising star and 3-point sniper. Bane was a great co-star to Desmond Bane with 30 points, also drilling 7 of his 12 three-point attempts. As with Morant, it was a perfect tune-up to remind people that Bane is one of the bright young combo guards in this league.
- Brandon Clarke and Ziaire Williams provided additional energy. It looked like the Grizzlies were really hit with the second half of a streak just before the All-Star break. Ziaire Williams and Brandon Clarke played a big role in breathing life into the game. Williams got off to a good start as starters aside from Morant came off a bit slow. Clarke was also key in providing the Grizzlies with a healthy dose of energy in the first half as well, performing his usual rim runs and cuts for finishes in the paint.
- Portland has something… Portland is going to do something this summer. I don’t know what it is, but they have over $60 million in cap space, a $21 million trade exception, and probably 2 lottery picks. The retooling around Damian Lillard seems ideal. Between Anfernee Simons (who could well get an offer with a blank check this summer) and Josh Hart, and whatever they do with Jusuf Nurkic, they have some stuff. Chauncey Billups has this team playing hard on both sides of the ball. Portland should be a scrappy team that catches some playoff teams sleeping on the stretch.
Enjoy the All-Star break. It’s been such a fun basketball game.
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