When it mattered most, the Grizzlies were able to pull through and get the win they needed on Thursday against the Bucks. Of course … no Giannis helped their case.
The team now heads into a play-in series to keep its season alive.
What’s been happening inside the NBA bubble
Dillon Brooks scored 31 points to lead Memphis to a 119-106 win to secure the No. 9 seed in the Western Conference on Thursday. That sets up a play-in series against the Blazers to get in the playoffs and face the Lakers.
Since the Grizzlies are the No. 9 seed, they’ll need to win Saturday’s game to force a decisive second game on Sunday. The Blazers only need to win either game to advance to a series against Los Angeles.
The bottom of the Western Conference was incredibly unpredictable in the bubble. The Pelicans were a favorite to get to the playoffs, but they completely collapsed and fell out of the picture.
Zion Williamson was the biggest disappointment … or at least how New Orleans managed his conditioning and playing time. While they dropped, the Suns surprised everyone. An afterthought in the bubble, Phoenix went a perfect 8-0 to give itself a chance before Portland’s win on Thursday eliminated the team.
It hasn’t been pretty at all for Memphis. The team didn’t need to do much to secure a chance for the playoffs, but four straight losses to start in the bubble suddenly put it in danger. Along with those losses came the loss of a key player, Jaren Jackson Jr., for the remainder of the season.
But the Grizzlies managed to win two of their last four games to whimper into the No. 9 seed. Usually that wouldn’t be enough to continue the season, but the unique rules in the bubble will allow Memphis a chance at two straight wins to move on.
Odds on Grizzlies’ play-in series against Portland
With how Portland’s Damian Lillard has been playing, it’s no surprise that Memphis is a heavy underdog against the Blazers. Lillard has scored 40 or more points in four of his last five games, including 51 against the Sixers and 61 against the Mavericks on Tuesday.
He added 42 more points against the Nets on Thursday in a must-win game.
The Memphis Grizzlies and Blazers opened their games in the bubble against each other on July 31, with the Blazers winning a 140-135 thriller in overtime. That was before Memphis lost arguably its most valuable player in Jackson Jr., though.
Ja Morant has continued to be spectacular in stretches, and Jonas Valanciunis has stepped up with a triple-double in Thursday’s win. Dillon Brooks perhaps has taken on the biggest load in trying to pick the Grizzlies up during their struggles.
Whether that has been natural from Brooks can be argued.
FanDuel Sportsbook has started to add numerous props and lines for the NBA’s first play-in series. The Grizzlies are currently a +760 underdog to win back-to-back games and advance to the NBA Playoffs.
The Blazers are a surprising -1400 to grab one of the two games and advance.
For just the first game on Saturday, the spread is set at Grizzlies +6 and the moneyline is +210. Portland’s moneyline is -255.
The odds aren’t surprising due to both teams going different ways in the bubble … but they may be too extreme. While Portland is 6-2, it’s managed to win three straight very close games with heroic efforts from Lillard.
If he struggles at all, the Blazers’ defensive woes could haunt them. Memphis, on the other hand, has lost some close games while it tries to figure things out without Jackson Jr.
Take Grizzlies +760
Looking at the odds and some possible regression to the mean for both teams, taking a chance on the Grizzlies to win two games is worth a shot with their ability to slow games down on defense.
Other odds and DFS play
If you’re really looking to make a Hail Mary play on the Grizzlies, their odds are much higher than those of the Blazers and the other bottom seeds in the playoffs, since the books don’t believe they’ll be making it.
They’re +8000 to win the Western Conference compared to +3000 for the Blazers and Thunder.
They’re +25000 to win the NBA Finals if you believe in miracles. Portland is +6000, while Oklahoma City is +6500.
For a daily fantasy sports play on Saturday, it’d be smart to stick with Dillon Brooks for Memphis.
He’s had a green light in the bubble, shooting nearly 18 shots a game in Orlando and as high as 26 against the Raptors.
He’ll need to have a strong performance if the Grizzlies want to move on and will likely be extremely aggressive against the Blazers’ weak defense.