|Blazers open road trip against slumping Grizzlies|
The Portland Trail Blazers will seek to take advantage of a staggering opponent when they visit the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday night to open a five-game trip.
The Grizzlies tipped off a four-game homestand with losses to Indiana and Houston, extending their current losing streak to four games.
Memphis is playing without star point guard Mike Conley, who is out indefinitely as he attempts to shake a painful Achilles injury.
Conley contributed 20 points to a 98-97 Grizzlies win at Portland earlier this month.
He played ineffectively in the Grizzlies' next two games, both of which they lost, before being shelved at the start of the homestand on Wednesday.
Mario Chalmers started at point guard on Saturday and had only six points in Memphis' 105-83 home loss to the Houston Rockets.
Chalmers missed all of last season because of a ruptured Achilles tendon he sustained in March 2016. His advice to Conley: Fix the problem with rest before it gets worse.
"Speaking from experience of having an Achilles injury," Chalmers said before the Saturday game, "make sure it's right before you come back."
With Conley out, Chalmers will have to deal with Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard, who had 22 points in a 102-90 home win over the Sacramento Kings on Saturday.
Lillard has responded to three straight games under 20 points with three in a row of 22 or more, including a 26-point, 11-rebound double-double against the Orlando Magic on Wednesday.
The Trail Blazers (9-7) had lost three of their previous five games before the Saturday win, including two defeats at home, which prompted coach Terry Stotts to take some heat from Portland fans.
Lillard came to the coach's defense Saturday.
"We're having breakdowns late in games," the guard said. "Well, those breakdowns are a missed shot here, a turnover there, a defensive breakdown here, giving up extra possessions, missed free throws. It's things that players control. If we were down 30 every game, that's different. But we're in position to win games. And when it's time to win games, that's the players' job."
The Trail Blazers hope to head in a positive direction on a trip that also sends them to Philadelphia, Brooklyn, Washington and New York.
It starts with Memphis, which uncharacteristically allowed 100 or more points in eight of its past nine games. The Grizzlies went 1-7 in those games.
The only opponent not to reach the century mark in Memphis' last nine games is Portland, which fell short in the earlier matchup largely due to Lillard's 4-for-16, 12-point night.
Of course, that came while matched up with Conley, one of the league's top guard defenders.
Lillard has been held under 20 points five times in his last seven contests against the Grizzlies. Portland lost on four of those five occasions.
The Grizzlies (7-8) also won the battle of the benches in the narrow win on Nov. 7, getting 21 points from Tyreke Evans.
That was part of a six-game run of 20-point games by Evans. He has cooled off during the homestand, totaling 25 points on 9-of-25 shooting.