LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — On a day where we expected high drama, Portland and Memphis entered with a simple and clear path: Win and you’re in.
So they did. And with that, the Memphis Grizzlies and Portland Trail Blazers advance to a play-in series for the eighth seed in the West. As the eighth seed at the end of the eight "seeding games" in the bubble, Portland need only win one of the two to advance. Memphis has to sweep them both — a tough task.
- Saturday: No. 8 Portland vs. No. 9 Memphis, 11:30 a.m. (ABC)
- Sunday (if necessary): No. 8 Portland vs. No. 9 Memphis, 1:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Memphis had little trouble advancing on Thursday, taking on a Bucks team without Giannis Antetokounmpo (suspension) that was just going through the motions and waiting for the playoffs to start. Memphis won 119-106, Dillon Brooks scored 31 points while Jonas Valanciunas scored 26 and pulled down 19 boards. There was little drama in the Grizzlies win.
Portland, however, had all the drama it could handle, barely outlasting a scrappy Brooklyn team — and it took Damian Lillard playing like an MVP to get the win.
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Lillard scored 42 points and carried the Trail Blazers for stretches when their offense faltered. CJ McCollum added 25 — and moved well for a guy with a fractured back — and Jusuf Nurkic added 22 and 10. Caris LeVert had 37 for a Brooklyn team that had a balanced attack, but LeVert’s potential game-winner bounced off the rim and Portland moves on.
Portland and Memphis played in the bubble back in July in the first restart game for both teams. Portland barely won in overtime, but Memphis was led in that game by Jaren Jackson Jr., who had 33 points. He is now out of the bubble recovering from a torn meniscus.
Also in that game, Lillard targeted Valanciunas in the pick-and-roll and played the Memphis big off the floor — the Grizzlies do not have a good answer for that. Portland is not going to coast to a play-in game win, but it’s difficult to picture how the Grizzlies win back-to-back games.