Grizzlies win series, 4-1
The NBA Playoffs…otherwise known as “Grind Time” for the Memphis Grizzlies. Without their star point guard, Mike Conley, for the last few games, they were still able to fend off a talented Portland squad led by LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard. Conley’s status for next series is the main storyline for Memphis, whose defense and post play is at an elite level.
Marc Gasol absolutely imposed his will all over the Blazers. Meyers Leonard and Robin Lopez will have nightmares about Gasol for months; he obliterated both of them with his incredible passing, inside-out offensive game, and banging in the trenches. Zach Randolph more than held his own against Aldridge, who shot under 35% from the field over five games. We’re talking about a perennial All-Star with an automatic midrange game…the fact that Z-Bo and Marc contained him so well bodes great going forward. If Conley can return for Game 1, the Warriors may be in big trouble.
Portland, on the other hand, is in for a big summer ahead after bowing out so early. Absent key players Wesley Matthews, Dorell Wright and Arron Afflalo (missed 3 games), there was an expiration date on their postseason life. That, coupled with Memphis’s grinding style (Tony Allen hounded Lillard) and an improved second unit (Jeff Green, Vince Carter: 9 big points in Game 5) spelled doom.
Retaining Aldridge and Matthews will be priorities because the Blazers could easily fall into the lottery if one, or both, of them decide to bolt in free agency. With CJ McCollum (33 points in Game 5) and Leonard on the rise, the Blazers are in good shape going forward if their star player stays put.
With all of the injuries, Portland never really had control of this series. However, Game 3 was theirs for the taking. After Conley’s injury, the steady performances of Nick Calathes (13 points, 3 dimes) and Courtney Lee (20 points, 5 boards) helped the Grizz come away with the the victory.
Aldridge, Matthews, Robin Lopez, Steve Blake, Arron Afflalo and Dorell Wright can all become free agents. In short, Portland’s depth could be decimated by September. GM Neil Olshey must retain LA and Matthews while securing more shooting, interior defense and playmaking either in the draft (23rd overall pick) or free agency.
Getting Conley healthy enough for Game 1 of the Semifinals is important. If he cannot go, expect the Grizz to go by committee with their scoring and shot creation while relying upon staunch defense to keep it close.