The Blazers opening game against the Grizzlies in the restart was a must win. With the Pelicans and Kings losing, Portland would control their own destiny to make the playoffs with a W over Memphis Friday. They never do anything the easy way. Somehow they pulled it off 140 – 135 in OT.
By the end, the Blazers had racked up 36 fouls and had given Memphis a franchise high 50 free throws. Jusuf Nurkic fouled out. Zach Collins fouled out. It felt like an upset, despite being the favorites and at “home.” But, Portland fans will take it.
The Blazers got outscored 36-25 in the third after Ja Morant came alive. Portland led by 13 points, 75-62 early in the third, but the Grizzlies whittled away the lead on a 20-6 run. They led 82-81 just over halfway through. Memphis built an 11 point lead.
The Blazers trailed deep into the fourth quarter and it seemed the Grizzlies were going to run away with it. Leading by 9 early and still up by 7 with just over four minutes left, the Grizzlies seem to control the pace.
The Blazers rallied, Nurkic their ignition with his high energy on defense. He blocked shots and threw down dunks, inspiring his teammates to keep pushing. Then he fouled out.
The Blazers were resilient. They brought in Gary Trent and moved Collins to center and Melo to the four. The Grizzlies guarded Lillard heavy, but left open Anthony who hit two crucial threes to help the game to overtime.
The Blazers dominated in OT with Collins fouling out late, but the Blazers outscored the Grizzlies 16-11 in the extra quarter and used the clock to hold them off.
It might appear that Portland played a sloppy game, with all the fouls, the Memphis free throws, and the the third quarter slump, but really they showed how good they are, finding a way to win regardless of those obstacles.