Losing Streak Continues With Another One-Possession Loss, This Time To Memphis

by Casey Holdahl
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PORTLAND -- The Trail Blazers, despite injuries and issues defending, managed to stay in the upper half of the Western Conference standings this season in large part due to their ability to win close games.

But now, with less than a month to play in the regular season, they’re falling in the standings because of the opposite.

For the third-straight instance, the Trail Blazers lost a a one-possession game, this time by a final score of 130-128 to the Memphis Grizzlies, Friday night at the Moda Center.

Portland is now 32-27 overall and 16-15 at home this season. They have now lost four-straight and eight of their last 10. Portland now finds themselves in seventh-place in the West with 13 games to play, meaning if the regular season ended today, the Trail Blazers would have to win one of the spots in the play-in tournament in order to qualify for the postseason.

While losing back-to-back games to the Clippers and the Nuggets by a combined total of two points wasn’t ideal, it did give one the sense that the Trail Blazers, a team that has had difficulty getting wins versus teams above .500, were playing improved basketball.

So the hope was that if they could play as well as they did in those most recent contests against the Grizzlies, a team sitting just one game over .500, they’d have a good chance of breaking their losing streak and remaining just ahead of the Mavericks for sixth in the West.

Which they almost did. Despite not playing all that well in the first half -- they turned the ball over eight times for 10 Memphis points, gave up 40 points in the paint and 12 fastbreak points -- Portland, behind the play of CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic, went into the half trailing 62-56, a minor victory considering the circumstances.

And while their defense didn’t improve much -- they allowed 38 points on 61 percent shooting -- their offense came alive to the tune of 43 points, 15 of those courtesy of Damian Lillard, in the third quarter. So after trailing by five points after the first quarter and six after the second, they went into the fourth down just 100-99.

The game was close thereafter, with neither team taking more than a four-point advantage. But in the end, Portland made too many mistakes and allowed too many easy baskets to come away with the win. While it wasn’t the final blow, Nurkic’s inability to convert a difficult attempt with the shot clock winding down after receiving an inbound pass with Portland trailing 126-125 8.8 seconds to play all but ended the home team’s chances.

Had the Grizzlies missed any of their late free throws, perhaps Portland might have had a chance to win or force overtime, opportunities they had in the last possessions of both their losses to the Clippers and Nuggets, but those misses never materialized.

Lillard lead the Blazers with 27 points, five assists and three rebounds in 37 minutes. Nurkic had arguably his best game since breaking his leg in two places back in 2019, going 11-of-15 from the field for 26 points to go with 17 rebounds, five assists, a steal and a block in 29 minutes.

CJ McCollum shot 50 percent from the field to finish with 22 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. Norman Powell and Carmelo Anthony each added 13 and Enes Kanter contributed 12 points and seven rebounds.

Ja Morant led all scorers with 33 points while also handing out 13 assists. Dillon Brooks went 11-of-19 for 25 points and Jaren Jackson Jr. came off the bench to score 23 points on 10-of-14 shooting.

The Grizzlies will now stick around in Portland for another night in order to play a Sunday matinee, the Trail Blazers first at home this season. Tipoff is scheduled for 1 p.m.

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