Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Blazers grab eighth seed in the West

Devin Booker has been the MVP of the bubble. (Photo by Ashley Landis-Pool/Getty Images)

Damian Lillard refused to lose.

With Portland’s playoff hopes hanging by a thread, the star guard poured in a career-high 61 points to help the Blazers escape with a 134-131 win in a sensational game against the Mavericks.

Lillard was a perfect 18-18 from the free throw line and hit nine three-pointers, including a miracle shot with his team trailing 130-127.

He launched a jumper from 33-feet and froze everyone on the court as it bounced off the rim and high into the air above the hoop before falling back through the net.

The shot took him past the 60-point barrier for the third time this season as he became just the second player in NBA history to achieve the feat along with Wilt Chamberlain.

Carmelo Anthony (26 points, 3/5 threes) was also clutch down the stretch as the Blazers moved into outright eighth in the Western Conference with a game to play. It also gave him back-to-back 50-point games after a 51-point haul against the 76ers. He’s the first Portland player ever to do it.

The Blazers now only need to beat the understrength Brooklyn Nets on Thursday to guarantee a place in the play-in tournament against likely ninth-ranked team the Memphis Grizzlies.

The Grizz need a win against the Eastern Conference-leading Milwaukee Bucks in their final regular season game but the Bucks are expected to rest players to prepare for the postseason.

It likely leaves the Phoenix Suns and San Antonio Spurs — two of the best stories of the bubble — on the outside looking in.

The Suns (7-0 in the bubble) and Spurs (5-2) both won on Wednesday in games they had to have to keep their playoff hopes alive.

Devin Booker had another monster game for Phoenix, tallying 35 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and a nasty left-handed poster dunk in a 130-117 win against a 76ers team missing Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, Al Horford, Tobias Harris and Josh Richardson.

The Spurs took advantage of James Harden’s absence to punish the Rockets 123-105 as Keldon Johnson led all scorers with 24 off the bench.

But they will need Memphis to drop one more game after the Grizzlies (1-6) lost to the Celtics 122-107. Ja Morant had 26 points and 13 assists but Jayson Tatum (29 points, 4/5 threes) was dominant for Boston.

The earlier results left the Blazers (5-2), who many have been described as the potential best eighth-seed in NBA history, in a suddenly must-win game against the Mavericks.

If they lost they would have fallen to 11th and likely wouldn’t have even made the play-in tournament. That’s how important Lillard’s shot was.


8. Portland Trail Blazers 34-39

9. Memphis Grizzlies 33-39

10. Phoenix Suns 33-39

11. San Antonio Spurs 32-38


Grizzlies v Bucks (Thursday, 6am)

Suns v Mavericks (Thursday, 6am)

Spurs v Jazz (Thursday, 8.30am)

Trail Blazers v Nets (Thursday, 11am)

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