If the Portland Trail Blazers beat the Memphis Grizzlies in Saturday afternoon's play-in game, they'll officially earn the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Portland went on an amazing run to end the regular season in Orlando, posting a 6-2 bubble record since the NBA restart. Meanwhile, Memphis struggled down the stretch, with the exact opposite record as the Blazers. With a loss today, the Grizz will be eliminated. They must win two straight to move to the NBA's Round of 16.
Continue reading for abe Insights' preview for this playoff prequel of sorts, featuring the best odds available upon publication, advanced, noteworthy stats and an analysis of how wagers should trend among the betting public.
Date: Saturday, August 15
Time: 2:30 p.m. ET
Implied Probabilities: Grizzlies 28%; Blazers 72%
Spread: POR -6
Moneyline: MEM +260; POR -255
The glaring omission from the Grizzlies' lineup is Jaren Jackson Jr., who suffered a torn meniscus earlier on in the bubble. Jackson's absence is especially notable due to the fact that he scored a team-high 33 points when Memphis last played Portland.
Although Portland is mostly healthy, dynamic 2-guard CJ McCollum is reportedly playing through a fractured back. In the last seven contests, he's shooting only 39% from the floor, so McCollum's health is worth monitoring going forward.
10.4 vs. 14.4: Portland has had the lowest turnover percentage among all squads in Orlando, which is partly why its offense has been borderline unstoppable. The second figure is Memphis' total in the same category, which ranks 11th out of 22 bubble teams.
122.5 vs. 107.1: During the NBA's return, the Blazers are scoring over 15 points more per 100 possessions than the Grizzlies. In fact, Portland's offensive rating shown here leads the Association.
49.4 vs. 44.7: While Rip City is elite in major offensive categories, its defense has been mostly abysmal. That first number shows Portland's league-worst field goal percentage allowed, followed by Memphis' total in the same category, which ranks sixth in the NBA.
Is this going to be a callback to the Grizzlies' "Grindhouse" days with Z-Bo, Marc Gasol and Mike Conley? That's the brand of basketball Memphis has played lately, and it may be just the formula necessary to overcome Jackson's injury and at least force a second play-in game against the Blazers.
The big bastion of hope for the underdogs is impending Rookie of the Year Ja Morant. Before Zion Williamson made his belated debut, Morant was the first-year phenom stealing headlines, and surprisingly vaulting the Grizz into playoff contention.
There's no question how Morant fares in his head-to-head matchup against Portland superstar Damian Lillard will go a long way in determining Saturday's outcome. If McCollum isn't quite himself, the Grizzlies have the depth and athleticism among their wing defenders to make him less of a factor than he could otherwise be.
What may be most important is what happens in the frontcourt. Jonas Valanciunas has the ability to take over games when he's counted on to, as he did against Milwaukee in the regular-season finale, when he logged a triple-double of 26 points, 19 boards and 12 assists.
Valanciunas' performance is vital to Memphis' cause. The Blazers have two exceptional big men in Jusuf Nurkic and Hassan Whiteside on the front lines. Plus, Lillard and McCollum love to slash to the rim, and Valanciunas can help deny that part of Portland's offense if he's playing up to his full capabilities.
Maybe Memphis is better suited to score against a lesser defensive opponent. The bubble schedule did the Grizz no favors, as they faced four of the NBA's top-seven defenses in terms of points allowed per 100 possessions to end the 2019-20 campaign.
Given those facts and how hot Lillard (37.6 ppg in Orlando) and Portland have been, public bets should definitely side with the Over points total. For the other main lines, the Blazers are playing better basketball and are healthier, so most of the wagers on spread and moneyline should go Portland's way.
Note: Odds current as of 8:30 a.m. ET on Saturday, August 15.
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