The final playoff spot in the Western Conference will be decided by the first play-in game in over 60 years, as the Portland Trail Blazers look to complete their surge into the playoffs with a win over Ja Morant and the Memphis Grizzlies Saturday afternoon.
The Blazers will secure the 8-seed and set up a first-round matchup with the Lakers with a victory from the NBA Bubble today, while the Grizzlies need to defeat Portland today to force a winner-take-all Game 2 between these two teams on Sunday.
Portland advanced to the play-in series by narrowly defeating Brooklyn 134-133 when Nets’ Caris LaVert missed a last-second stepback in one of the most-thrilling NBA games since the restart. As a result, the Blazers held off a Phoenix Suns team that managed to go a perfect 8-0 inside the Orlando bubble and still was unable to get into the postseason.
The Grizzlies came into the Orlando bubble with a 3.5-game lead above a stable of teams for the final playoff spot in the conference, but a season-ending injury to the team’s second-leading scorer Jaren Jackson Jr., paired with white-hot performances from the Blazers and Suns put the Grizzlies in a must-win situation on Thursday where they would eventually get past a Bucks team playing without the suspended Giannis Antetokounmpo by the score of 119-106.
Who has the edge in this matchup and who should the Lakers start preparing to face next week? Let’s break it down.
Portland Trail Blazers
If you’ve paid scarce attention to the NBA since the Orlando restart, here’s a quick summary of what the Blazers have been up to from the bubble.
Portland enters today’s game with a 6-2 record in the Orlando bubble, the latest victory being that aforementioned thriller against the Brooklyn Nets.
The star of the Blazers and the entire NBA bubble so far has been Blazers guard Damian Lillard, who has been on a torrid stretch to close out the regular season, averaging 37.6 ppg in Portland’s eight games.
Lillard has been even more of a man possessed since a loss to the Clippers, as Dame averaged 51.3 ppg in the Blazers three games after missing two free-throws in a close loss to the Clippers that ended with Patrick Beverley and Paul George taunting Lillard in the Bleacher Report Instagram comment section.
— Portland Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) August 10, 2020
One thing is for certain about this Blazers team — they can score in bunches.
Portland averages 115 points per game, good for 6th best in The Association, however, their offensive-ranking since coming to the Orlando bubble has been nothing short of phenomenal, posting a league-best offensive rating of 123.4.
The Trail Blazers biggest point of concern in this matchup with the Grizzlies, and any future playoff matchup that may lie before them, is that the Blazers believe in playing defense in about the same manner a 30-year old believes in Santa Claus. While their offensive-rating is eye-popping, their defensive rating is anything but and they have given up 121.3 points per 100 possessions from Orlando, good for the 3rd worst mark in basketball.
Such an imbalance between offense and defense usually doesn’t bode well for a long postseason run, but the Trail Blazers are only concerned about getting there first, and despite all their defensive woes, their potent backcourt of Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, and Gary Trent Jr. will provide enough firepower to keep Portland in every game.
While Portland seems to be playing its best basketball at the right time, the opposite can be said about the young Memphis Grizzlies.
The Grizzlies entered the Orlando bubble as one of the best stories from the 2019/20 NBA season, and they held a 3.5-game lead for the 8th playoff spot prior to the NBA restarting their regular season. However, the Grizzlies were dealt a significant blow early in the NBA restart when they lost their co-star Jaren Jackson Jr. to a torn meniscus that will cause him to miss the rest of the season.
The difference has been noticeable ever since the injury. The Grizzlies were never going to be confused as a potent scoring team like Portland is, but they were still a better group prior to Jackson’s injury. Inside the bubble has been a different story, as Memphis’ offensive ranking is only better than five teams in Orlando since play resumed, with most of those teams having nothing to play for the past several games.
Memphis has also been without guard Tyus Jones (doubtful to play today) with soreness in his knee, and when you’re about to face the hottest scoring team in basketball, ideally you would have all of your horses in the stable.
The offense without Jones and Jackson has been slow and often times just looks discombobulated. If they didn’t catch a big break and face a Bucks team with nothing to play for, there’s a very good chance the Grizzlies would have managed to drop to 10th in the West after their big head-start coming in.
Odds & Betting Preview
Best Blazers Line: Blazers -6, -110 (PointsBet)
Best Grizzlies Line: Grizzlies +6.5, -110 (BetMGM)
Best Blazers Moneyline: Blazers -285 (PointsBet)
Best Grizzlies Moneyline: Grizzlies +245 (DraftKings)
Total: O/U 232, -110 (PointsBet)
Grizzles-Blazers Betting Trends
- Memphis is 0-7 ATS in their L7 games as an underdog of 5-10.5 points
- Portland is 6-1-1 ATS in their L8 games when their opponent allows 100 points or more in their previous game
- Memphis is 2-6 ATS and SU in their 8 games from Orlando
- Portland is 5-2-1 ATS and 6-2 SU in their 8 games from Orlando
- The OVER is 7-1 in Portland’s 8 games from Orlando Bubble
- The UNDER is 6-2 in Memphis’s 8 games from Orlando Bubble
- Portland is 7-1 ATS in the 1st Half in the 8 games from Orlando Bubble
Simply put, we think the Blazers are on a mission to get into the postseason and face a Lakers team they suddenly appear to match up very well in. Memphis enters this play-in game in the same manner as a team backing their way into the playoffs. Portland is playing too good right now and has too many shooters for the Grizzlies to contend with.
The Hook Prediction: Blazers 131, Grizzlies 123
The Hook Betting Prediction: Blazers (-6) and the over.