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Grizzlies try to win sixth straight over struggling Blazers

Sportsnaut
Dec 9, 2021; Memphis, Tennessee, USA; Memphis Grizzles guard Desmond Bane (22) attempts a three-point shot during the second half against the Los Angeles Lakers at FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 9, 2021; Memphis, Tennessee, USA; Memphis Grizzles guard Desmond Bane (22) attempts a three-point shot during the second half against the Los Angeles Lakers at FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

The Memphis Grizzlies seek their sixth consecutive win and 11th in the last 12 games on Sunday when they welcome the recently struggling Portland Trail Blazers to Memphis, Tenn.

The Grizzlies won their fifth in a row and 10th game since Nov. 28 with a 124-105 rout in Sacramento on Friday. The win was Memphis’ third straight by a double-digit margin, including a 113-103 win in Portland on Wednesday.

Desmond Bane, who led the way Friday in Sacramento with 24 points, set the scoring pace in Portland with 23. Dillon Brooks finished right behind him in both contests with 23 against the Kings and 22 points in the come-from-behind win over the Blazers.

The backcourt duo has shouldered a fair portion of the scoring load with Ja Morant sidelined since sustaining an ankle sprain on Nov. 26. While healing from the injury, Morant was placed in the NBA’s health and safety protocols for COVID-19.

Brooks has scored at least 22 points in each of the last four games, while Bane has hit for at least 19 points in eight of the last 11 outings.

“He’s ready for the moment,” Brooks told the Memphis Commercial Appeal. “We made trades that opened up some more shots for him, and he’s relishing in the moment. He’s locked in on automatic. Every shot he takes he thinks is going in.”

Bane is shooting 41.8 percent from 3-point range on a team-leading 6.5 attempts per game. At 16.5 points per game, he is part of a trio with Brooks at 18.6 and Jaren Jackson Jr. at 16.6 leading the Grizzlies in scoring for the length of the season thus far, behind only Morant at 24.1 points per game when he was injured.

Memphis comes into Sunday’s contest with the NBA’s fourth-highest scoring average through games played Friday at 111.5 points per game. Portland’s defensive yield of 111.4 points per game is the fifth-worst in the league through Friday.

The Blazers lost 10 of 11 including seven straight before their 125-116 win over Charlotte on Friday. Portland has allowed an average of 115.6 points per game over its last 12.

Damian Lillard stepped up to snap the skid on Friday, scoring a season-high 43 points.

“I’ve had a few games where I’ve come out and I’ve made my first couple shots and I end up not shooting the ball well,” Lillard said in his postgame press conference. ” I tried to come out and just play with pace, just be in attack mode.”

Portland has been without Lillard’s backcourt mate CJ McCollum since Dec. 6, the result of a collapsed lung. McCollum’s absence overlapped for two games with Lillard’s five-game stint on the sidelines with abdominal tendinopathy.

Friday marked the Blazers’ first win since McCollum went out and since Lillard returned.

Lillard helped set the tone in Portland’s first meeting with Memphis this season, a 116-96 Blazers win on Oct. 27. He scored 20 points and dished 10 assists.

Portland was without Norman Powell for that matchup. Powell is the Blazers’ third-leading scorer at 17.7 points per game.

–Field Level Media