HEADLINE

Short-handed Grizzlies, Blazers meet in two-game set

Field Level Media

March 01, 2024 at 12:44 am.

Two of the most injury-plagued teams in the NBA this season meet when the visiting Portland Trail Blazers face the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday.

Both teams are battling to stay competitive despite missing key players. The Grizzlies were without seven injured players in a 110-101 road loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday night.

The Grizzlies led by 14 points early in the contest before losing their third straight. Ja Morant, Desmond Bane, Brandon Clarke, Marcus Smart, John Konchar, Luke Kennard and Scotty Pippen Jr. are all sidelined by injuries.

Adding on to the problem is that Jaren Jackson Jr. injured his right quad and will miss the Portland game. Jackson led the Grizzlies with 33 points, 13 rebounds and three steals against Minnesota.

Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins was encouraged by his team’s effort against Minnesota, which is contending for the top seed in the Western Conference. Ziaire Williams added 16 points for the Grizzlies.

“I thought it was a great game,” Jenkins said. “Both teams battled neck and neck for most of the game, and obviously a tight fourth quarter, too. The Timberwolves came away with a few more plays.”

The loss of Jackson will hurt. The power forward is averaging 25.1 points on 44.4 percent shooting in his last nine games.

“I’m getting a chance to expand my game,” Jackson said. “I have the brunt on me in terms of if things go well, I have the ball in my hands a lot. If things don’t, I have the ball in my hands a lot. You got to wear that. Not everyone gets that opportunity.”

Memphis has split its first two meetings against the Blazers this season, including a 112-100 victory in Portland on Nov. 5 as part of a two-game set.

The teams will meet again on Saturday in Memphis on the second night of a back-to-back.

Portland is eager to turn the calendar after going winless in February. The Blazers have lost nine straight and 13 of their last 16.

Portland played without Scoot Henderson (adductor strain) in a 106-96 loss to the Miami Heat on Tuesday. That left the Trail Blazers short-handed in the backcourt with Malcolm Brogdon (elbow tendinitis) and Shaedon Sharpe (abdominal surgery) still out.

“It’s tough,” Trail Blazers forward Jerami Grant said. “I know it’s a part of the NBA, but it’s definitely tough. People going in and out of the lineup. Especially with the young team that we have, we need everything that we can get. A lot of people going out is tough, but it’s a part of it.”

Portland could be without another key player on Friday as center Deandre Ayton is listed as doubtful. Ayton exited the game against Miami at halftime with a right hand sprain.

Ayton was averaging 18.6 points and 11.3 rebounds in 12 games prior to the matchup against Miami. Portland coach Chauncey Billups said X-rays of Ayton’s hand were negative.

One bright spot for the Blazers has been the play of Grant, who is averaging 21.7 points on 45.3 percent shooting. Grant said the team remains positive as they head out on the road, where they’re 6-22 this season.

“We got to stay together,” Grant said. “I think we’ve got a good group of guys. Good mentalities. And I think you just got to shift your focus. It’s got to be progression and getting better. I think everybody has to have that on their mindset. It’s not always going to come out in wins. But as long as we’re getting better every game then I think that’s a win for us.”