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With the Portland Trail Blazers just 3.5 games behind the Memphis Grizzlies for the highly coveted eighth seed in the Western Conference, Friday afternoon’s matchup between the two teams will undoubtedly serve as a very pivotal contest in terms of how the final playoff spots in the West will shake out.
The Grizzlies have an opportunity to increase their lead in the standings and hopefully avoid a potential play-in scenario, while Portland can begin closing the gap during the eight seeding games if they are able to cover the slight -2 spread.
Memphis enters this game having lost a lot of the momentum that they appeared to be building before the stoppage in play four months ago.
Point guard Ja Morant has been nothing short of spectacular for Memphis this season. While he is the leading candidate for the league’s Rookie of the Year award, he has not played in nearly as many games of importance as the veteran laden Blazers led by the dynamic backcourt of Lillard and CJ McCollum.
The two teams only played once during the regular season before the NBA season was suspended. In that February game, Lillard actually suffered a groin injury that caused him to leave the contest early in the fourth quarter and ultimately miss the following three weeks of game action.
The Blazers will not only have a full-strength Lillard, but they also are adding Zach Collins and Jusuf Nurkic to an already thin front court. The return of Nurkic will be a welcome sight for the Blazers’ offense — the three-man lineup of Nurkic, Lillard and McCollum ranked seventh-best in offensive rating (117.9) a season ago among lineups that played at least 1,000 minutes.
Portland is already one of the better offensive teams in the NBA averaging 113.6 points per game, which ranks eighth. With that scoring punch and the added defensive presence of Nurkic, the Blazers should be able to control the tempo of the game against the inexperienced Grizzlies.
Portland might struggle with its wing depth since they will be playing without “3-and-D” specialist Trevor Ariza, who opted out of the season re-start due to personal reasons. Carmelo Anthony will see more time at small forward after playing the majority of his minutes as a power forward this season, but with his new slender frame, it just may be the perfect position for him to fill.
With the Grizzlies having a glutton of first- and second-year players on their roster I think it’s a smart bet to lay the two points and take the Trail Blazers. Early bettors seem to agree as 97% of the money being bet on this spread is landing on Lillard and Co.
The Action Network’s line predictor expects the spread to go up to -3, so be wary if the line increases (the Blazers are just 12-14-1 against the spread when favored by more than two points).
[Bet $20+ on the Trail Blazers at PointsBet and Win $125 if they make at least one 3-pointer]
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Portland Trail Blazers, Memphis Grizzlies, NBA, Western Conference, Damian Lillard, Jusuf Nurkić
World news – US – Grizzlies vs. Trail Blazers Guide: Back the Experience of Damian Lillard & Co.