Western Conference Playoff Preview: (4) Portland Trail Blazers vs. (5) Memphis Grizzlies

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During the entire NBA Playoffs, each member of the society are doing their own breakdowns of each playoff series form the first round until the NBA finals. Alec Walt (@AlecWalt) and myself (@FonzyDeFalco) will be going over the Portland Trail Blazers vs. Memphis Grizzlies series. We will be breaking down each team and breaking down the starting lineups, bench, coach and home court matchup. Here is the schedule for this series.

Game 1: Today Portland @ Memphis 8:00 pm.

Game 2: April 22nd Portland @ Memphis 8:00 pm.

Game 3: April 25th Memphis @ Portland 10:30pm.

Game 4: April 27th Memphis @ Portland 10:30pm.

*Game 5: April 29th Portland @ Memphis TBD.

*Game 6: May 1st Memphis @ Portland TBD.

*Game 7: May 3rd Portland @ Memphis TBD.

*Games 5, 6 and 7 only happen if necessary. 

Let’s get these breakdowns started by going of the matchups:

Point Guards: Damian Lillard vs. Mike Conley

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Phoenix Suns imrs.php

Walt: Damian Lillard v.s. Mike Conley is the best matchup in this series. Lillard is averaging 21 points and 6.2 assists per game while Conley is averaging 15.8 points and 5.4 assists per game. Mike Conley has more experience in the playoffs. He has made it to the Western Conference finals while Lillard has struggled to lead the Trail Blazers past the best in the West in the semi-finals. The better point guard will determine which team advances to the semi-finals.

Advantage: De Falco – Lillard, Walt – Lillard

Shooting Guards: Arron Afflalo vs. Courtney Lee

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Portland Trail Blazers   Memphis Grizzlies

Walt: Aaron Afflalo and Courtney Lee aren’t stars, but they’re x-factors. The Trail Blazers play their best when they have a consistent third scoring option and the Grizzlies play their best when their guards play like a two headed monster with their stout perimeter defense. Aaron Afflalo is now listed as doubtful for game one and is day-to-day. That is a huge blow for the Trail Blazers. C.J McCollum will start in his absence. The Trail Blazers will not win this series if Afflalo is out.

Advantage: De Falco- Afflalo, Walt- Lee

Small Forward: Nicolas Batum vs. Jeff Green 

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Walt: Nicolas Batum has scored the least amount of points per game since his rookie year while Jeff Green stepped up tremendously on a contract ending season. Batum used to be the third scoring option but couldn’t live up to that expectation scoring less then 10 points per game. Green was acquired from Boston and has scored just north of 15 per game to give the Grizzlies four 10+ point scorers per game. Both thrive at defending the perimeter. Whoever is more consistent on offense wins this series

Advantage: De Falco- Green, Walt- Green

Power Forwards: LaMarcus Aldridge vs. Zach Randolph

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De Falco: This should be a great matchup to watch. Both PF’s are playing at high levels so we should expect a battle between the two. Randolph is a grinder averaging a a double double while Aldridge set a career high in scoring average (23.4) and has been a nice stretch four.

Advantage: De Falco- Aldridge, Walt- Randolph

Centers: Robin Lopez vs. Marc Gasol

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De Falco: Marc Gasol is the best center in the league right now and will definitely be playing at a high level. While I think Gasol has the advantage Robin Lopez can hold his own. Lopez has finally found his niche with a team after bouncing around a few times, becoming the full time starting defensive center the Blazers have been looking for.

Advantage: De Falco- Gasol, Walt- Gasol

Key Bench Players: Steve Blake, Chris Kaman, C.J. McCollum (Portland) vs. Vince Carter, Tony Allen, Kostas Koufos (Memphis)

Portland has always been known for having a terrible bench. This year they looked like they had that turned around but an injury to Wesley Matthews causes Afflalo to move to the starting lineup. Add in the fact that they also lost Dorrell Wright to injury they really have a thin bench. For Memphis it’s the opposite, they have former starters like Tony Allen and Vince Carter coming off the bench. Allen is probably one of the best permitter defender in the league while Carter brings the veteran leadership they have been looking for.

Advantage: De Falco- Memphis, Walt- Memphis

Coach: Terry Stotts vs. David Joerger

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De Falco: Both coaches are relatively new to the NBA but have made great strides in their young careers. Stotts has the slight advantage because he has won a playoff series (Portland beating Houston in 2014) while Joerger, who is in his second year as the head man after spending the past five as an assistant, has never won a series.

Advantage: De Falco- Stotts, Walt- Joerger

Homecourt

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Walt: On their own respective home courts, both the Grizzlies and Trail Blazers are almost dead even. The Trail Blazers are 32-9 at home while the Grizzlies are 31-10. It is not easy to win on the road for either team. Both fan bases are extremely passionate because these teams are the only big four professional teams in their cities. The only advantage I see is four of the possible seven games are in Memphis.

Advantage: De Falco- Memphis, Walt- Memphis

Overall, this should be a great series to watch and I can see every game going down to the wire. The Lillard-Conley and Aldridge-Randolph matchups are only part of what is going to be a tough series in a tough wild Western conference.

Who will win?

De Falco: Portland in 7

Walt: Memphis in 7

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