Portland has done it again.
After trailing by eight points in the fourth quarter, the Trail Blazers rallied on Saturday to top the Memphis Grizzlies, 126-122 and earn the final spot in the NBA playoffs. They needed another frantic rally in the fourth quarter to secure their fourth straight win and set up a first-round playoff matchup with the Los Angeles Lakers.
This time CJ McCollum and Carmelo Anthony provided the late heroics, hitting several big buckets in the final minutes to fend off the Grizzlies in the NBA bubble’s play-in game. But it was a team effort overall that saw Damian Lillard and Jusuf Nurkic come up big as four Portland players scored more than 20 points.
Blazers-Lakers is on
With the win, Portland secures the No. 8 seed in the West and will face the Lakers on Tuesday in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series. By winning on Saturday, Portland earned an extra day of rest by avoiding a second game of the play-in series.
Lillard again led the scoring effort with 31 points to go with 10 assists. He hit all 14 of this free throw attempts.
Nurkic comes up huge with heavy heart
Nurkic filled up the box score, tallying 22 points, 21 rebounds, six assists, two steals and two blocks. His huge effort arrived hours after he announced that his grandmother died following a battle with COVID-19.
McCollum added 29 points including an eight-point stretch in the final 3:08 that saw Portland rally from a 111-108 deficit to a 119-113 lead. He revealed earlier this week that he’s been playing in the bubble with a fracture in his back.
Anthony’s 3-pointer with 21 seconds remaining extended Portland’s lead to 122-116 and iced the win. He finished with 21 points. That was his only made 3-pointer in six attempts.
The Blazers needed the late rally after allowing Memphis to take control of the game with a 42-31 third quarter. It was another game in the bubble that saw Portland struggle on the defensive end but come up big on offense in a shootout.
Ja Morant finishes with a flourish
Memphis’ presumptive Rookie of the Year Ja Morant led the Grizzlies surge, scoring a career-high 35 points to go with eight assists and four rebounds.
But the Grizzlies’ season has come to and end after they entered the bubble with a 3.5 game lead for the No. 8 seed in the West. They went 2-7 in the bubble including Saturday’s loss and struggled after losing forward Jaren Jackson Jr. to injury midway through bubble play.
Portland will have two much-needed days off before a 9 p.m. ET tip against the Lakers on Tuesday.
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