Blazers Get To 50 Wins Wednesday Versus Grizzlies

by Casey Holdahl
Follow @chold

PORTLAND -- At this point in the NBA season, teams are either making final preparations for the postseason or playing out the string in anticipation of an early offseason. But while roughly half of the teams in league know they're not long for the postseason, that doesn't doesn't necessarily keep them from playing hard. Thats especially true for players called into duty due to injuries.

The Memphis Grizzlies are one of those teams whose postseason hopes ended long ago and are replete with players who are now getting an opportunity to play extended minutes after spending most of the season on the bench or in the G League. And despite playing without almost the entirety of their regular season rotation, they gave the Trail Blazers all they could handle, and more, in the first half.

But then Damian Lillard made sure no such trend would extend to the second half.

The 6-3 guard out of Weber State, who became the first player in franchise history to record at least 2,000 points and 500 assists in a single season, led Portland on a 14-3 run to end the second quarter, capped up a steal turned first-half buzzer beater, on the way to pulling away from the Grizzlies 116-86 in front of a sellout crowd of 19,608 Wednesday night at the Moda Center.

The Trail Blazers are now 50-28 overall and 30-9 at home this season. Portland has now reached the 50-win mark for the 14th time in franchise history and for the first time since the 2014-15 campaign.

"I told the team 50 wins has always been a benchmark in this league," said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. "If you're a 50-win team, I think that speaks a lot about what you've done in the regular season and the success you've had in the regular season. I think we all should be very proud of what we've done so far this year. We've got work ahead of us, but you need to celebrate moments like this."

With the win, the Trail Blazers remain a half game behind the Rockets for the three-seed in the Western Conference with four games to play in the regular season.

As is often the case this time of year, the team with significantly less talent and a far worse record played harder and made fewer mistakes in the early going on Wednesday's game. With the Trail Blazers turning the ball over and the Grizzlies making just about everything, Memphis led 30-28 after the first quarter and by as many as 10 in the second.

But while it's common for the lesser team to throw an early scare into an opponent, it's equally as common to see the better team settle themselves and pull away for the win. That's exactly what happened.

After trailing 50-40 with just over five minutes to play in the second quarter, the Trail Blazers outscored the Grizzlies 38-16 over the next 12 minutes to 78-66 lead with 5:15 to play in the third. Over the course of that stretch, Lillard scored 13 points, handed out six assists and grabbed four rebounds to lead the charge.

"When I was on the bench, I was just kind of trying to see what we could do when I did come back in the game to turn it up a little bit, just watching for the holes – what can we take advantage of and obviously the first thing was to get some stops and push it at them so we didn’t have to play against that zone," said Lillard. "But even when they were in the zone, I was like, alright when I come in I’m just going to get downhill, I’m going to attack. But defensively, we’ve got to get stops so we can push it at them. It was a group effort, everybody was kind of committed to doing that in the second quarter. Once we started to do that, you see how fast the game turned around."

Portland ultimately outscored Memphis 24-10 in the third quarter and would go on to lead by as much as 32 in the fourth quarter, even with Lillard sitting out the final 12 minutes. That allowed Evan Turner to take over in his place, which resulted in the 6-8 guard/forward finishing with his second consecutive triple-double after accomplishing the statistical feat Monday night versus the Timberwolves in Minneapolis.

"The last one was more legit than this one, but that was dope," said Turner. "Good win, we struggled in the first half. Did a great job, I think the (second) unit came in, big second half for us defensively. We were able to get to 50 wins and get the triple-double."

TOP PERFORMERS

Damian Lillard finished with 20 points (8-18 FG, 2-7 3-PT, 2-2 FT), seven rebounds, 10 assists and one steal. It was his second straight double-double and his 13th of the season. With his 17th point Wednesday night, Lillard reached 2,000 points for the season, joining Clyde Drexler as the second player in team history to score 2,000 points in two different seasons and the first player in team history to record 2,000 points and 500 assists in the same season.

Lillard joins James Harden as the only NBA players with 2,000 points and 500 assists this season.

Evan Turner recorded his second consecutive triple-double and the fifth of his career, finish-ing with 13 points (6-7 FG, 1-1 3-PT), and season highs of 12 rebounds and 11 assists. He is the second player in franchise history to record a triple-double in consecutive games and the only NBA player to have a triple-double off the bench in consecutive games going back to the 1983-84 season.

Enes Kanter recorded 21 points (10-15 FG, 1-4 FT), 15 rebounds and three steals. It was his third straight game with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds, matching the longest such streak of his career.

"He’s tough down there," said Stotts. "He goes after rebounds, finishes around the basket – granted Memphis was a little undersized and he was able to take advantage of that with his rebounding and finishing around the basket. He did it in Detroit, did it in Minnesota, I think he’s feeling more and more comfortable and we’re feeling more comfortable as far as spacing, allowing him to play, reading double teams, things like that.”

Zach Collins scored a career-high 18 points (7-10 FG, 2-2 3-PT, 2-4 FT), including 11 in the fourth quarter, to go with six rebounds and one block in 22 minutes.

"I was really pleased with what we did defensively in the second half," said Stotts. "In a game like this, a lot of people are going to get numbers, but I think it’s more important what we did defensively in the second half."

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NOTABLE

• The Trail Blazers improved to 50-28 for the season. It is the 14th time the Trail Blazers have won 50-plus games in franchise history and the first since the 2014-15 season. It is the third 50-win season under head coach Terry Stotts.

• Portland held the Grizzlies to opponent season lows of 10 points in the third quarter and 30 points in the second half.

• The Trail Blazers bench outscored the Memphis reserves, 48-41.

• Portland out-rebounded Memphis, 54-32, including a 14-4 advantage on the offensive glass.

• The Trail Blazers scored a season-high 68 points in the paint while holding the Grizzlies to 34 points in the paint.

QUOTABLE

"Shoutout to Anfernee Simons for making it happen." -- Evan Turner thanking the rookie guard for making the shot that gave him his 10th assist for the triple-double

NEXT UP

With just four games remaining, the Trail Blazers being an important two-game series versus the Nuggets, with the first contest taking place Friday night in Denver. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

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