Blazers, Grizzlies advance to play-in; perfect Suns left out
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — Damian Lillard sent Portland into the NBA’s first play-in series with 42 more points and a crucial steal, helping the Trail Blazers escape with a 134-133 victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday night.
The Trail Blazers secured the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference only after Brooklyn’s Caris LeVert, who scored 37 points, missed a jumper just before time expired. Portland will play ninth-seeded Memphis on Saturday. If the Grizzlies win, the deciding game would be Sunday.
The winner of the play-in series gets the final spot in the West and a first-round series against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Portland came into the day in eighth place, but would have fallen out of playoff position with a loss, thanks to victories earlier Thursday by Memphis and Phoenix. Had the Blazers lost, the Suns would have inched ahead of them into ninth.
But Lillard wouldn’t let the Blazers fall, following his games of 51 and 61 points in the previous two games not only with more sensational scoring but also with a huge defensive play.
He chased down LeVert for a steal with Portland clinging to a two-point lead with 1:12 to play, setting up CJ McCollum’s free throws that made it 134-130. LeVert came back with a three-point play and had a chance to win it after Carmelo Anthony missed a 3-pointer, but his jumper was off.
McCollum had 25 points and Jusuf Nurkic had 22 points and 10 rebounds for the Blazers, who went 6-2 in the seeding games.
Joe Harris and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot each scored 19 points for the Nets, who finished 5-3. They were already locked into a first-round series with defending champion Toronto but played their starters as if they needed the win.
GRIZZLIES 119, BUCKS 106
Jonas Valanciunas and Ja Morant had triple-doubles and Memphis kept its season alive with a victory over Milwaukee, which was missing star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo after he was suspended for head-butting an opponent.
Dillon Brooks added 31 points as Memphis posted its second wire-to-wire win of the season and wrapped up a spot in the play-in series. Memphis hasn’t been to the playoffs the last two years after making seven straight postseason appearances from 2011-17.
Valanciunas had 26 points, 19 rebounds and 12 assists for his first triple-double in his 559th career game. The 28-year-old Valanciunas’ previous career high in assists was five. Morant had 12 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists.
This marked the first time two teammates posted triple-doubles in the same game since Miami’s Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler did it Dec. 10 in a 135-121 overtime victory over Atlanta.
Brook Lopez scored 19 points for the Bucks, who already had clinched the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference for a second straight season.
SUNS 128, MAVERICKS 102
Devin Booker scored 27 points and Phoenix rolled past Dallas to finish as the only unbeaten team in the restart.
Dario Saric scored 16 points and Cameron Payne and Cameron Johnson each added 15 for the Suns.
Dallas was already locked into a playoff matchup with the Los Angeles Clippers, so the starters played limited minutes. Luka Doncic had 18 points in just over 13 minutes. Boban Marjanovic, Dallas’ 7-foot-4 reserve center, had 18 points and a career-high 20 rebounds.
JAZZ 118, SPURS 112
Rayjon Tucker scored 18 points and Utah beat San Antonio after the Spurs were eliminated from playoff contention, ending their streak of postseason appearances at 22 years.
Jarrell Brantley added 13 for the Jazz, and Donovan Mitchell had 11 points in 11 minutes.
Keldon Johnson scored 24 points for the Spurs. The Spurs were officially ousted when Memphis beat Milwaukee, and Phoenix completed an undefeated eight-game run in the NBA’s restart bubble at Walt Disney World with a victory over Dallas.
KINGS 136, LAKERS 122
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — Buddy Hield scored 28 points, including a 3-pointer that capped Sacramento’s streak of 11 consecutive baskets the third period, and the Kings beat Los Angeles.
Bogdan Bogdanovic had 27 points as the Kings won for only the third time in the NBA restart. The Kings made 21 3-pointers, with Hield going 8 of 14.
The Lakers had their focus on the playoffs. Most Lakers starters were held out, but LeBron James had 17 points in 15 minutes, all in the first half. Dion Waiters led the Lakers with 19 points. Markieff Morris had 14.
Los Angeles locked up the Western Conference’s No. 1 seed three games into the restart.
WIZARDS 96. CELTICS 90
Thomas Bryant had 26 points and nine rebounds to help Washington beat Boston for its lone win in the restart.
Troy Brown Jr. added 17 points and eight rebounds for the Wizards.
The Celtics, who already were locked into a playoff matchup with the Philadelphia 76ers, rested their starters. Rookie Javonte Green took advantage and scored a season-high 23 points for Boston.
MAGIC 133, PELICANS 127
Nikola Vucevic scored 23 points on 10-of-11 shooting from the floor and Orlando tuned up for the postseason by beating New Orleans to snap a five-game skid.
Both teams were missing many of their top players in a regular-season finale that carried no playoff implications.
Orlando was locked into the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference and will face the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks in a first-round series beginning Tuesday. New Orleans already was out of playoff contention, so its season ended.
Frank Jackson scored 31 points for the Pelicans.
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