One game away from their first playoff berth since 2017, the Memphis Grizzlies couldn’t overcome the final obstacle.
Memphis (34-39) lost 126-122 to the Portland Trail Blazers (35-39) in the Western Conference play-in game Saturday. The loss ended the Grizzlies’ first season under head coach Taylor Jenkins.
Rookie Ja Morant did all he could, scoring 35 points, and Jonas Valanciunas notched 22 points and 16 rebounds. But it wasn’t enough to overcome Damian Lillard’s 31 points and and CJ McCollum’s 29, as the Trail Blazers used their own star power to down the Grizzlies.
Morant’s big outing was especially impressive considering the presumptive Rookie of the Year revealed following the game that he has been dealing with a thumb injury.
“Ja Morant just said that these past 4 games he has been playing with a fractured thumb,” Grizzlies in-house reporter Meghan Triplett tweeted Saturday.
A paltry 19-point first quarter hurt Memphis; Portland scored 31 points in the initial period to take a strong advantage early. Even a 42-point third quarter wasn’t enough for the Grizzlies to pull out a victory and a playoff spot.
Jenkins ends his first season with an under-.500 record, but a lot of optimism for the future in Memphis.
“We’re close. We got a lot of work to do,” Jenkins told The Commercial Appeal. “We put ourselves in a great spot for the future and that’s only going to motivate us even more in the coming days.”
The Trail Blazers move on to face LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday.