PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — After the final buzzer of their Game 4 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday night, the Portland Trail Blazers all gathered in a huddle at midcourt and raised their clasped hands skyward.
All of them were smiling.
Portland had avoided elimination from the playoffs with a 99-92 victory over Memphis.
“I think since the last game when we went 0-3, the big thing we’ve been talking about is having heart and playing with pride — and just not being swept,” said Blazers guard Damian Lillard, who had 32 points. “Everybody’s always saying, ‘Nobody’s ever done it, coming back from 0-3.’ We didn’t want to focus on that. We wanted to focus on just today, and doing everything we had to do to give ourselves a chance to keep playing.”
Memphis led by as many as 10 points in the fourth quarter, but Portland rallied to deny the Grizzlies their first-ever playoff sweep. Lillard united the team in timeouts, then encouraged the hometown fans by gesturing for cheers late in the game.
LaMarcus Aldridge had 18 points and 12 rebounds for Portland, while C.J. McCollum added 18 points — including two clutch layups and a 3-pointer down the stretch. The victory snapped Portland’s seven-game losing streak to the Grizzlies, including all four regular-season meetings.
Game 5 is Wednesday in Memphis. The winner of the series goes on to face the Golden State Warriors in the second round.
The Grizzlies were playing without starting point guard Mike Conley, who was inadvertently elbowed in the face in the third quarter of Game 3 and underwent surgery on Monday morning. His status for the rest of the playoffs is uncertain.
Marc Gasol led the Grizzlies with 21 points and Courtney Lee added 19.
“When you’re up 10 points with 6 minutes in the game in this league, you got to finish,” said Zach Randolph, who had 12 points for Memphis. “Especially in these circumstances and what we’re playing for. So it’s frustrating.”
McCollum’s layup with 4:50 left knotted it at 82. Gasol’s hook shot on the other end denied Portland the lead but McCollum made another layup to tie it again with 2:36 to go.
Gasol made two free throws but Lillard hit a 3-pointer and a free throw to put Portland in front 88-86 with 1:58 left. Randolph’s layup tied it again for the Grizzlies before McCollum’s 3-pointer put the Blazers up 91-88.
Lee’s layup closed the gap to 92-90 with 19 seconds left. After Lillard’s free throws, Gasol dunked, but Lillard and Batum made free throws as time wound down before Aldridge’s rebound and layup at the buzzer.
“Well, it was good to get a win, obviously. That’s an understatement,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said.
Nick Calathes started for the Grizzlies in Conley’s place. It was his first career playoff start and first of the season. He finished with 12 points on four 3-pointers.
Memphis backup guard Beno Udrih, who had 20 points in the opener, hurt his ankle in the first half of Game 2, but returned in the third quarter and finished with 10 points. He warmed up Saturday night but didn’t play. He played in Game 4 and had 13 points.
Meyers Leonard hit a 10-foot jumper and added consecutive 3-pointers to put Portland up 35-30 in the first half. Aldridge’s layup gave the Blazers a 43-37 and they went on to a 55-48 halftime lead.
Memphis opened the second half with a 10-2 run capped by Lee’s 3-pointer to go up 58-57.
Lee’s long jumper put Memphis in front 62-57 and Portland went cold, going 0 for 10 from the field until McCollum’s layup with 5:32 left.
The Grizzlies outscored the Blazers 27-13 in the third quarter and carried a 75-68 lead into the final period.
Jeff Green’s 3-pointer gave the Grizzlies the biggest lead of the game, 80-70, with 8:48 left.
Gasol was blunt about what happened from there:
“We stopped competing. We tried to trade buckets with them and we played a little bit too fast, we did not execute as well as we could have,” he said. “They took away the momentum that we built and got away with a win. Got to give them credit.”
Grizzlies: The Grizzlies became the first Western Conference team to have fewer than eight turnovers in three postseason games since the 2007-08 Hornets. They had nine turnovers on Monday. … The team does not yet know when Conley may be available.
Blazers: It was the first time Portland had led at the half since April 8, a stretch of eight games. … Blazers reserve C Chris Kaman was listed as probable with a left ankle sprain, but he did not play.
Leonard, a 7-foot-1 center, set a career playoff high with 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting. He hit all three 3-pointers he tried and has made seven 3s during the playoffs.
Afterward, he was unabashedly excited about taking a game from Memphis.
“Amazing! It felt Amazing! No one wants to get swept, obviously. Not only that, now we’ve got some momentum,” he said. “We are taking this game-by-game. We are going to go to Memphis and try to get one. Then hopefully back here for Game 6.”
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