It was a fierce battle between two teams tied for fourth place in the competitive Western conference. The Memphis Grizzlies always give the Blazers trouble, and this night would be no exception. But the Blazers hung tough and the game came down to the very last second. CJ McCollum, who had been the hero all night, had a good look at the game winning shot, but it bounced short off the rim, and the Blazers went down 98-97. Grrrrrrr.....
Former Oregon Ducks star Dillon Brooks got a nice cheer when his name was announced in the Memphis starting line-up. He had the unlucky task of guarding McCollum, who scored a game high 36 points, but Brooks had some nice moments, including a nice 3-point play in the final minute which ended up being crucial to their win. Look, a bunch of his Oregon teammates showed up to cheer him on:
I asked them which team they were rooting for, and they said, "We're rooting for Dillon."
Here's a crazy shot of Dillon Brooks jumping very high for a CJ McCollum pump fake:
Jusuf Nurkic got in early foul trouble, an unfortunate trend this season. Another strange trend for Nurkic is the regularity with which he gets smacked in the face. Nearly every game this season he has hit the floor holding his face after an opposing player's elbow or hand gets him squarely in the kisser.. What is it about Nukic's face that attracts such violence? Earlier in the season he was forced to wear a mask and Blazer fans still remember well the game last season when he picked his dislodged tooth of the court and kept playing.
Anyway, the first half ended with the Blazers up by 3 points after McCollum hit a sweet shot at the buzzer. It was a nice start but everyone knew Memphis would come back. Here's a peek at what the Blazer faithful were wearing in the hallways during the break:
These ladies came to party:
I like the Blazers green, even if it is wrong color:
The inevitable Memphis comeback was led by guards Mike Conley and Tyreke Evans. Super-center Marc Gasol contributed as well. Memphis is a quality team and the Blazers did well to stay in this one. At several moments it seemed as if The Grizzlies might run away with it, but McCollum's scoring and hustle plays by bench players like Shabazz Napier and Ed Davis kept things close.
Many Blazers fans could be seen heading for the exits with the team down 5 and only 23 seconds to go, but those foolish people missed an exciting finish. The Blazers closed the gap to 1 and then got the ball back when Napier knocked the ball off Mike Conley on an inbound pass. With 12 seconds remaining Cj McCollum calmly took the ball up court, juked his defender, and got a clear shot at the basket for the last second game winner. Alas it fell just short. Bummer.
This would have been a big win for the Blazers, a tone setting grind-out victory. But instead it will just be noted as a good hard loss. Afterwards the locker room was fairly quiet, but not downbeat. CJ McCollum was asked how he dealt with missing the game winner emotionally. "Just move forward," he said.
Move forward! The Blazers play The Brooklyn Nets next, at home on Friday night. It's a game they should win handily but with the exception of the very first game of the season, nothing has come easy for this team. That's okay, we like things tough in Rip City.