The first round series between two injury riddled lineups pits the fourth seeded Portland Trail Blazers against the fifth seeded Memphis Grizzlies, who earn home court advantage because of their better record. It’s hard to make accurate bets on this series because of the injury issues, but on a game-by-game basis, there’s bound to be some interesting potential money making options. Read our game preview and free betting pick for Game 1.
Wesley Matthews, the team’s third scoring option and arguably their best outside shooter will miss the entirety of the playoffs. He’s a big loss in a series against Memphis where scoring in the paint will be made exceptionally difficult by Memphis’ vicious front court. His replacement, the very capable Arron Afflalo is also currently sidelined and will probably miss at least Game 1.
Throw in Nicolas Batum, C.J. McCollum and Chris Kaman as questionable for Game 1 and you have the recipe for a difficult opening few games. Head coach Terry Stotts has played his cards relatively close to his chest, but it feels like the likelihood is for Batum, McCollum and Kaman to all be available for Sunday’s game – at least in some capacity.
Still, this Portland team largely works around the play of point guard Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge. They are far and away the team’s top two scorers and each plays an important role in sparking the team offensively. Lillard is a crucial to the Trail Blazers as any one player is to any NBA team. He initiates the offense, is now the main big 3-point shot option, but still has stretches of games where he goes shooting stroke goes cold. Meanwhile, Aldridge can be as fluid an inside scorer as there is in the NBA, but he’s also equally capable of getting locked out by more physical players around the basket.
That’s where Memphis comes in. This core has been together for a while and has threatened to make a serious run on a few occasions. 2014/15 was really supposed to be their year, especially with the success that David Joerger enjoyed making Memphis into a more balanced team.
Add in the NBA trade deadline acquisition of valuable wing scoring option Jeff Green and you should have the makings of a very good basketball team and an NBA title contender.
However, a loss of form and injuries to backcourt duo Mike Conley Jr and Tony Allen saw the Grizzlies drop from a seeming lock at the #2 seed spot to the fifth seed. Conley and Allen didn’t manage to return during the regular season and there are now also concerns about Green’s fitness for Game 1.
Memphis has some depth, but not an awful lot and while Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol are undeniably among the best front court tandems in the NBA, this team really relies upon Conley to initiate the offense and drive the play when necessary. A combination of Green, Allen and Beno Udrih are the best options to do that in his absence, but niggles for Allen and Green effect that as well.
Betting Preview: Memphis (-5) vs Portland
Conley and Allen may or may not play, but there’s even less chance that they’ll be at full fitness. This is going to be a competitive and tough series, but we’ll take Lillard and Aldridge to find a way to score some points and clock up the victory in Game 1 of this series.
The Pick: Portland (+5) (www.betonline.ag)
Writer’s Record Against The Spread: 43-34