Damian Lillard is getting precisely what he asked for. When the topic of an NBA restart was floated a month ago, Lillard suggested he only wanted to play if his Portland Trail Blazers had a real shot at making the 2020 NBA playoffs.
Should Portland finish within four games of the 8th seed in the Western Conference, the Blazers will get the opportunity to prove their worth.
That, at least temporarily, makes the Blazers (and this early clash with Memphis) must-see television. With the NBA fully back in the Orlando bubble and playoff seeding hanging in the balance, Friday’s clash between the Blazers and Grizzlies could be very interesting.
Check out the latest odds and my pick in this Grizzlies vs. Blazers prediction post.
Grizzlies vs. Blazers Odds
Grizzlies to Win+105
Blazers to Win-125
Dame Dolla leads his Blazers into the fray on July 31st when they’ll meet Ja Morant and the Grizz for just the second time this year. This is a huge game for Portland, who presently sits 9th in the Western Conference, one game out of the final playoff seed.
The Blazers are already in position to force a play-in series, but a win here would go a long way in guaranteeing they get that chance.
Considering what’s on the line, the oddsmakers probably have this game appropriately priced. The Blazers know they need to win for a chance to get into the playoffs, while Memphis will hope to ice this thing and punch their playoff ticket.
Memphis won the only meeting in a 111-104 win in February, but this game is set up as a borderline pick’em. The total suggests we’re going to get a relatively high-scoring shootout, but four of the five previous matchups would have failed to hit the Over.
Grizzlies vs. Blazers Analysis
Memphis won the only meeting this season, but it was a fairly close game (Memphis was up by four at halftime), and Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum combined for 43 points.
It’s for a good reason, but Ariza’s defense on the outside, as well as his perimeter shooting, will both be missed. That’s another viable veteran body Portland doesn’t have, and considering they already lacked defensive aptitude (26th in defensive efficiency), that could be an issue.
Portland luckily has a very good offense (9th in the NBA) and can bomb from deep (4th in 3-point percentage). That could be compounded by the Grizzlies’ weak outside shooting (21st) and suspect perimeter defense (22nd in long range defense).
This honestly is a solid matchup for the Blazers, as Hassan Whiteside (or Jusuf Nurkic, should he start) and Jonas Valanciunas could cancel each other down low. Suddenly, this is a showdown between the determined Damian Lillard and an inexperienced rookie in Ja Morant.
Portland has their playoff lives on the line here, while the Grizzlies need to earn their stripes. Doing so in the first game in a less-than-ideal matchup may not be so easy.
Prediction and Pick
You won’t be getting much help from the ATS data in this matchup. Nobody is technically at home here, while the Blazers (15-17-1) haven’t excelled as favorites, and Memphis (21-23-1) hasn’t been amazing ATS as the underdog.
I certainly see the downside in backing Portland. They’re down a viable body in Ariza, they really don’t defend very well, and so far this year, they’ve been the inferior team.
The Blazers need to get off to a hot start in the NBA’s return, though. This first game coming against Memphis is so fitting that I can’t imagine Lillard comes out cold.
Portland also gets back big men Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins, which improves their rebounding and interior defense. Collins could also space the floor, while the 22-year-old offers untapped upside after playing just three games this year.
The Over is viable in a potential shootout, but Portland is retooled, refreshed, and motivated. I think they steal this first game and make Memphis sweat this reboot out.
Noah Davis is one of the more diverse writers at GamblingSites.com. Like many of his colleagues, he's a huge fan of both football and basketball. But he also writes about box office records, TV show prop bets, DFS, and all kinds of other subjects.
When it comes to the NFL, Noah's favorite team is the Cleveland Browns. He enjoys cheering them on with his wife and daughter.