Portland Falls One Shot Short In Loss To Memphis

by Casey Holdahl
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PORTLAND --Despite a season-high 36 points from CJ McCollum, the Portland Trail Blazers fell 98-97 to the Memphis Grizzlies in front of 18,692 Tuesday night at the Moda Center.

“I thought it was a good game, both teams really played hard,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. There was a lot of ebb and flow to the game. I like the way we came back a couple times. Turnovers were an issue early in the first half, but we kind of overcame that.”

The Trail Blazers are now 6-5 overall and 4-3 at home this season. The victory is the Grizzlies’ first in Portland since January 4, 2016.

Tuesday night’s game was likely the most even-matched of the season thus far for the Trail Blazers, both in terms of talent and statistics. Portland made 36 field goals, Memphis made 35. Memphis made seven three-pointers, Portland made six. Memphis shot 25 free throws to 20 for Portland. Forty-eight points in the paint for Memphis, 46 for Portland. And the Grizzlies committed 15 turnovers to 16 for the Trail Blazers.

All told, it resulted in a game in which the largest lead for both teams was eight points, the lead changed 13 times and the score was tied 13 ties. So in a game so closely contested, it’s only fair that the game would go down to the final possession.

Trailing by one point after McCollum hit his fourth and final three-pointer of the night, Portland had a chance to come away with the victory after Shabazz Napier deflecting an inbounds pass off of Mike Conley with 12.1 seconds to play. The ball was initially awarded to Memphis, but the call was overturned on video review, giving Portland a chance to come away with yet another close victory.

But McCollum’s 20-foot pull up jumper with less than three seconds to play fell just short, and though he was able to get his own rebound, the 6-5 guard out of Lehigh wasn’t able to get another shot off before time expired.

“I got a good look around the elbow area going left,” said McCollum of his final attempt of the night. “I think I make that shot pretty often. Went to a comfort shot, missed it. Got the rebound, had more time than I thought, I should have tried to get out of the corner but time ran out.”

McCollum went 14-of-26 from the field, 4-of-10 from three and 4-of-5 from the line for 36 points. Damian Lillard was the only other Trail Blazers starter to score in double figures, putting up 12 points on 4-of-16 shooting.

Evan Turner went 4-of-10 from the field but 8-of-8 from the free throw line for 16 points to go along with three assists and two rebounds in 33 minutes. Shabazz Napier provided a huge lift off the bench, going 5-of-8 from the field for 12 points in 30 minutes.

“Their second unit plays a small lineup, they spread the court and I just thought it was a chance for us to kind of match that,” said Stotts of the decision to play Napier. “I thought we needed a little bit of a spark. I really like Shabazz. It’s unfortunate he hasn’t been able to get a lot of time so far and I thought it was a good opportunity to get him on the court.

Both Ed Davis and Noah Vonleh finished with 10 rebounds.

The Grizzlies were led by Tyreke Evans, to came off the bench to score 21 on 8-of-15 shooting. Mike Conley scored all 20 of his points in the second half to go with 6 assists and Marc Gasol added 16 points and eight rebounds in 34 minutes.

The Trail Blazers now have two days off before hosting Allen Crabbe and the rest of the Brooklyn Nets Friday night at the Moda Center in the fourth game of a five-game homestand. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.