Dillon Brooks added 25 points for Memphis, which snapped a two-game losing streak.
Neither team was able to lead by double digits. The Grizzlies had a 100-99 edge heading into the final period.
Nurkic’s dunk gave the Blazers a 116-115 lead, but Jaren Jackson Jr.’s layup put the Grizzlies back in front with 5:20 left. Lillard made the second of a pair of free throws to tie it at 117 before Nurkic’s layup.
The teams wrestled for the lead down the stretch. Morant’s layup put Memphis up 125-123. He missed the first of a pair of free throws before Norman Powell’s layup got the Blazers within a point with 45.9 seconds left.
The Blazers got the ball with 10.7 seconds left and 2.1 on the shot clock, but Nurkic missed a shot under the basket. De’Anthony Melton made free throws at the other end, giving Portland 3.6 seconds left for a 3-pointer to tie it.
Lillard was fouled and made his first free throw but his second rimmed out and Portland couldn’t catch up.
The Grizzlies were in the midst of a seven-game road trip, longest of the team’s Memphis-era. They’ll play the Trail Blazers three times in the space of a week. After Friday’s game, the teams meet again Sunday afternoon at the Moda Center, then they face off in Memphis next Wednesday.
Memphis had lost four straight to the Blazers, and the Grizzlies hadn’t won in Portland since 2017.
Both teams were slow to get warmed up. The Grizzlies led 28-20 in the opening quarter and 62-56 at the break. Morant’s putback capped the half and he led all scorers with 14 points.
Nurkic’s layup and a 3-pointer from CJ McCollum got Portland within 62-61 to start the second half.
Portland pulled in front 71-70 on Lillard’s layup, but he came down hard on the court and came up grimacing. It was just his second game back after a hamstring injury kept him out for three games. He stayed in the game.
The Blazers couldn’t hold on to the lead and Brooks’ running jumper gave the Grizzlies a 94-91 lead.
Grizzlies: Dillon Brooks played for the University of Oregon. … The teams were due to meet in late January, but the game was called off because of coronavirus protocol. Memphis did not have the league-required eight players for the game. … Memphis Center Jonas Valanciunas missed his third game because of concussion protocol.
Trail Blazers: Portland continued to run tests for when the team is allowed to welcome fans back, with a handful of people — mostly employees and family — sitting in socially distanced courtside seats across from the team benches. Among the “fans” in the stands was Lillard’s toddler son. Oregon still has not allowed spectators at indoor sporting events because of COVID-19.
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