Entering their first-round playoff matchup against the Grizzlies, Damian Lillard and the Blazers knew they needed to have a strong showing for 48 solid minutes if they were going to have a chance at winning Game 1 in the FedEx Forum.
"They call this place 'The Grindhouse' because [the Grizzlies] grind out wins," Lillard said before the game, according to ESPN.com. "That's just what they've done against us."
After getting swept in the season series 4-0, Lillard had an idea what Portland was up against going into Game 1 on Sunday, but it’s safe to say the All-Star point guard didn’t anticipate his team getting held to 33% shooting from the floor, 30% from three-point range or Beno Udrih having a career night for Memphis. Udrih, a reserve point guard, provided the offensive spark the Grizzlies needed in their 100-86 victory.
Udrih led Grizzlies with 20 points off the bench on 9-of-14 shooting, adding seven rebounds and seven assists. After the first quarter, Udrih had already scored eight points, helping Memphis to a 10-point lead. Memphis held its opponent to 25% shooting, tying a Portland season-low for a quarter.
[daily_cut.NBA]“I was just mentally ready like I always try to be,” Udrih said in a TNT postgame interview. “I was open in my sweet spot, 17 feet and I got going early.”
Even with Urdih’s career performance and the Grizzlies’ beautiful display of team basketball, the biggest headline coming out of Game 1 will be the Blazers’ woeful night shooting.
The only bright spot in Portland’s shooting chart is the the 45% clip it put up on 40 field goals from less than five feet from the basket. This, an indication of head coach Terry Stotts’s game plan to go inside and feed LaMarcus Aldridge down low when things weren’t working from deep. After Portland shot 16 of 50 in the fist half, Stotts had to find a way to manufacture offense and Aldridge was the answer.
Finishing with a game-high 32 points and 14 rebounds, Aldridge carried the team as far as he could, but with Lillard’s shooting woes—hitting merely 5 of 21 and missing every one of his six shots from downtown—there was only so much the big man could do. Midway through the second quarter, Memphis had held Lillard to three points and two assists. With frustration already beginning to show, it was down hill from there for Lillard. Nicolas Batum added 15 points and seven rebounds, while Myers Leonard, Allen Crabbe and Chris Kaman all chipped in seven points off the bench.
For Memphis, this was a great way to start the playoffs: getting solid offense out of the bench and seeing banged up players like Tony Allen and Mike Conley not only be effective but slash through the lane as if they hadn’t been battling injuries throughout the season. Zach Randolph set the tone for the Grizzlies early on, establishing himself in the post on offense and battling Aldridge on the defensive end throughout the game. Randolph finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds, scoring 10 of his 16 in the third quarter.
Marc Gasol scored 15 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in an all-around game that looked effortless providing crucial support on the glass, while moving the ball on offense. Conley’s foot didn’t seem to be a problem until he took a seat late in the game, missing the fourth quarter. Before he sat, Conley cut through the lane relentlessly throughout the game, on his way to 16 points.
For Portland, the only way to turn things around going into Game 2 is to find the bottom of the net. The Blazers' style of play is to take teams out with a barrage of three-pointers, but if they're not hitting from downtown, nights like Sunday happen. Stotts tried to refocus the game plan to go down low to Aldridge, but if Portland is going to find a way to beat Memphis in a seven-game series, it’ll need to get better looks at the basket and more consistency from its star player in Lillard.
The Grizzlies have one of the most complete teams in the NBA, and have proven to be one of the toughest to face when their offense is clicking. The only question for Memphis going forward is the health of Conley and Allen. At the end of the third quarter, Conley was on the bench nursing his injured foot and ended up sitting out the rest of the game.
Without Conley providing that spark on offense and getting his hands into passing lanes, the Grizzlies could have a tough time keeping up with the Blazers if they get hot from the floor. Now, if guys like Udrih are getting hot like he did in Game 1, this series might be over sooner rather than later.