Coming in with a 2-0 series lead, the Memphis Grizzlies had complete control of the first two games, but the Portland Trail Blazers were looking to change that in Game 3 in front of their home crowd.
Arron Afflalo made a return to the lineup after missing the first two with a shoulder injury, and the Moda Center was rocking.
However, the Grizzlies silenced the crowd right from the beginning and kept them quiet for most of the game. In a must win game for the Blazers, the Grizzlies were the ones who came out with more urgency and led wire to wire to take a 3-0 commanding series lead.
LaMarcus Aldridge, who was the best player for the Blazers through two games, was blanketed by the Grizzlies defense in the first half of this one. He was held to 1 of 10 shooting for eight points in the half. On the contrary, it was Damian Lillard who was carrying the Blazers early on in this game. He scored 14 first half points on 6 of 9 shooting after combining for 10 of 37 in the first two games.
Still, the Grizzlies controlled the half, led by Mike Conley’s 12 points and four assists and Courtney Lee’s 10 points on 80 percent shooting. The Blazers defense was flat out dreadful in the first half, allowing the Grizzlies to score 62 points on 57.5 percent shooting from the floor. The Grizzlies led comfortably, 62-49, after the first 24 minutes.
The Blazers attempted many comebacks during the second half, but every time they made a small run, the Grizzlies responded.
Late in the third period, Mike Conley took an elbow to the face from C.J. McCollum. He left the game with blood dripping from his face and did not return, leaving the Grizzlies, who were already without Beno Udrih, shorthanded at the point guard position. Nick Calathes had to finish off the game as the only healthy point guard on the roster.
Calathes did not disappoint, chipping in 13 points, four rebounds, and three assists in 27 minutes. He made several brilliant plays down the stretch.
Late in the fourth, the Blazers finally made a strong push to cut the lead to three points after Nicolas Batum drilled one from behind the arc. That was the closest Portland got, as the Tony Allen converted on a couple of layups to push the Grizzlies lead back to nine with 1:14 remaining.
The Blazers did not want to go down easily, as they played the foul game until the final buzzer, but the Grizzlies were hitting their free throws. In fact, they knocked down 90.7 percent of their free throws tonight, going 39 of 43 from the line.
Marc Gasol scored a team-high 25 points to go along with seven rebounds, four assists, and three blocks. He was patrolling the painted area throughout the contest with his bulkiness and physical play down low. Zach Randolph was also bullying the Blazers big men in the low block, as he put in 16 points, four rebounds, and four assists.
Courtney Lee has been a key part of the Grizzlies’ offense this season, as he finished the game with 20 points and five rebounds on eight shots. Conley, despite leaving early, contributed with 14 points, four assists, and three rebounds. Though, his injury is concerning since he was taken to a local medical facility to be further evaluated.
Batum was a major component for the players tonight, as he scored a game-high 27 points and added six rebounds and four assists. He has had an inconsistent year, but he was very effective in this game, hitting six three-pointers and shooting 50 percent from the field. C.J. McCollum, who combined for eight points in the first two games, scored a playoff career-high 26 points on 8 of 14 shooting off the bench.
The two stars, Aldridge and Lillard, scored 21 and 22 points, respectively. Aldridge was highly inefficient, hitting 6 of 18 shots. Lillard was hot early on, but he was shut down in the fourth period, scoring just three points. Nicknamed Mr. Fourth Quarter, Lillard did not deliver for his team in the final period of this crucial Game 3.
The Blazers have simply not matched the physicality of the Memphis Grizzlies and have been getting destroyed in the paint. The Grizzlies outscored the Blazers, 48-30, in the painted area.
Memphis becomes the sixth team in this year’s playoffs to take a 3-0 series lead. Game 4 will be held on Monday, April 27th, where the Grizzlies will look to close out the series to earn a second-round dance with the top-seeded Golden State Warriors. Portland, meanwhile, will look to keep their season alive.