If I went six months back in time and told you that CJ McCollum and Meyers Leonard would lead Portland to a playoff win in 2015, you would have looked at me like I was crazy. But really, that actually happened. Despite LaMarcus Aldridge having his worst game of the playoffs thus far, the Trail Blazers snuck by the Grizzlies, 99-92 on Monday night, forcing a Game 5 in Memphis later this week.
Early on, this one looked like a continuation of Saturday night’s game. The Blazers were playing sloppy and missing shots, which led to Memphis jumping out to an eight point lead after just five minutes of play. Terry Stotts called time, but unlike games one and three, the Trail Blazers answered. Portland outscored Memphis 23-10 in the final 6:28 of the quarter, taking a 27-22 lead into the second. The Trail Blazers had nine second chance points in the opening period, compared to zero in the entirety of game three. That’s huge.
The Blazers continued to play well in the second, and Meyers Leonard put on a show. Leonard went into the half with 13 points and four rebounds on 5-for-5 shooting, including a 3-for-3 mark from beyond the arch. Portland took a somewhat comfortable 55-to-48 lead into the intermission behind Meyers’ spectacular performance and Damian’s 16 points. For the first time in the series, Portland’s fans had a bit of hope heading into the second half.
The third quarter was a disaster. There’s just no other way to put it. The Trail Blazers started the half with no field goals and three turnovers in the first three minutes. It didn’t get better from there. Portland’s first field goal of the quarter came at the 5:17 mark, and they were being outscored 16-2 in the period. Fortunately, the Blazers closed the quarter fairly well, and trailed by only seven going into the final quarter. All things considered, it could have been a lot worse. Seven points was certainly within striking distance.
Following the disastrous third quarter, it was difficult to have any hope of a Portland comeback. The manner that the Trail Blazers opened the period made it even more difficult. The Blazers started the quarter shooting 0-for-5 from the field while allowing the Grizzlies to get in the paint, which is where they are at their best. The Blazers began to claw back into it, and had cut the lead to seven. Then, Jeff Green hit a desperation three-pointer to bring the Memphis lead back to double-digits. Despite that debilitating blow, the Trail Blazers continued to fight. Portland was getting stops, but their offense just couldn’t get it going. The most important, and most impressive player down the stretch was CJ McCollum. He got to the rim time after time, getting the Trail Blazers buckets when they needed them most. Portland kept it close, but weren’t able to get over the hump until the final two minutes. At the 1:58 mark, Damian Lillard drained a deep three-pointer while being fouled. He completed the elusive four-point play, giving Portland a two point lead with under two minutes to go. After Zach Randolph tied it up, CJ McCollum was called upon and converted when the Blazers needed it the most, as he had done all night. Portland played some great defense down the stretch to maintain the lead, and two pairs of clutch Damian Lillard free throws sealed the deal.
For the first time this series, there was no clear stats leader for the Trail Blazers. This was a team win. Damian Lillard finished with 32 points and eight assists on 12-of-23 shooting. Meyers Leonard scored 13 points on an impressive 5-of-6 shooting mark. And perhaps most importantly, CJ McCollum scored 18 points on 8-of-12 shooting.
With the win, the Trail Blazers force a Game 5 in Memphis on Wednesday, and keep their season alive. No team has ever come back from an 0-3 playoff deficit, but that doesn’t mean that these Blazers won’t give it their best shot. The tipoff time for Wednesday’s game is TBD.
- Shooting percentage: Portland 41% — Memphis 44%
- Three point percentage: Portland 32% — Memphis 50%
- Free throws: Portland 19-21 — Memphis 13-14
- Rebounds: Portland 50 — Memphis 40
- Assists: Portland 18 — Memphis 19
- Points in the paint: Portland 42 — Memphis 38
- Fastbreak points: Portland 7 — Memphis 9
- Bench points: Portland 31 — Memphis 24
- Meyers Leonard became the first Blazer off the bench to record a double-double in the playoffs since Brian Grant in 2000.
- In the last two games, CJ McCollum has scored 44 points on 16-for-26 shooting and 4-for-6 from three.
- The Blazers closed the game on a 29-12 run.
- 32 points is a new playoff career-high for Damian Lillard.