The Portland Trail Blazers trail the Memphis Grizzlies 1-0 heading into Game 2 of their first-round playoff series, and another loss would be a huge blow.
Where: FedExForum, Memphis.
When: Thursday April 23, 01:00 (UK time)
The Grizzlies picked up a 100-86 win in the first meeting with point guard Mike Conley overcoming a sore right foot to produce an impressive display to lead his team.
While the likes of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph will look to win the battle inside on the boards and give the Griz another comfortable win, they will need to expect their rivals to shoot better.
Portland shot just 33.7 percent from the field in Game 1, and with Damian Lillard particularly out of sorts, they will be facing a team desperate to put things right and tie up the series.
That is undoubtedly easier said than done on the road in Memphis where the Trail Blazers lost both games in the regular season too, but that isn’t much of a change from the trend overall as the Grizzlies won all four meetings prior to the playoffs.
There was controversy on Tuesday when it was revealed that the Portland whiteboard had a message stating that they don’t lose to Spanish players, with Nicolas Batum later insisted that it was just a joke but apologised if it had caused any offence.
Nevertheless, Memphis are a level-headed team and arguably don’t need any further motivation against their Western Conference rivals, and after stuttering their way to the end of the regular season, they will want to re-discover their best basketball at the most important time of the year.
Conley, Gasol and Randolph have too much on both ends of the floor for Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge to overcome, and particularly at home, they will look to make another statement and take a big step towards the Conference semi-finals.
The narrative of this series could change in Portland, and it will probably need to from a Blazers perspective, but Wednesday night should see Memphis take control of this match-up and push their opponents closer to the brink of elimination.
Lillard will surely improve on his last performance as he went 5-of-21 while missing all six of his 3-point attempts, and the return of Arron Afflalo will certainly be a huge boost for the team as they search for spacing and added offensive threat.
However, it won’t be enough as the Grizzlies will get the ‘Grindhouse’ rocking with another important win.
Prediction: Grizzlies to win.