It was a rough day for the Los Angeles Lakers organization on Tuesday, with president of basketball operations Magic Johnson abruptly announcing he was stepping down just hours before the team’s season finale.
The Lakers, however, seemed on track to offset that news and end their year with a win against the Portland Trail Blazers at the Staples Center.
At least they were until Maurice Harkless stepped up at the buzzer.
Tied up with just seconds left in the game, the Trail Blazers were working the ball around the perimeter attempting to get one final look. C.J. McCollum, after taking one dribble on the wing, dished to Harkless, who had cut to the corner with just two seconds left.
Even with a pair of Lakers running at him, Harkless drained the 3-pointer, sealing the 104-101 victory for Portland.
“I was open, he saw me, and I just took the shot with confidence,” Harkless said.
Harkless led the Trail Blazers with a season-high 26 points, shooting 9 of 14 from the field. Enes Kanter added 22 points and 16 rebounds, and Damian Lillard finished with 20 points.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope led the Lakers with 32 points in the loss. Mike Muscala added 16 points, and both Alex Caruso and Johnathan Williams finished with 12 points. The Lakers ended the season with a 37-45 record and will miss the playoffs again this season for the sixth straight year.
“We just stuck with it. They play hard,” Harkless said. “They didn’t make it easy for us at all. We just kept fighting the whole game, and in the end we found ourselves in a position to be able to have a chance to win.”
“I was open, (CJ) saw me & I just took the shot with confidence.” @Moe_Harkless called game & talks to @brookeolzendam in tonight's @biofreeze Top Performance Review! #NinjaMoe pic.twitter.com/1yAkn8akWm
— Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) April 10, 2019
The Trail Blazers will finish their season on Wednesday when they host the Sacramento Kings. Portland currently holds the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference, and secured home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs with the win on Tuesday.
The Trail Blazers can still move up, however, as they are just a half-game behind the Houston Rockets, who fell to the Oklahoma City Thunder after a Paul George game-winner on Tuesday night. If both Portland and the Denver Nuggets — who hold the No. 2 seed by half a game and take on the Minnesota Timberwolves in their season finale — win on Wednesday, then the Rockets will slide to the No. 4 seed.
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