Portland’s Damian Lillard named MVP of seeding games
CJ MCCOLLUM scored 14 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter Saturday afternoon, helping the Portland Trail Blazers rally from a late deficit to beat the Memphis Grizzlies 126-122 in the Western Conference play-in game near Orlando.
The win allowed the Trail Blazers to secure the eighth and final Western playoff berth and move on to a best-of-seven first-round series against the top-seeded Los Angeles Lakers beginning Tuesday night at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
The loss ended the season for Memphis, which held eighth place at the beginning of the restart but then lost six of eight before Saturday’s defeat.
Damian Lillard had 31 points to pace the Trail Blazers, who took advantage of 19 more free throw opportunities to outscore the Grizzlies 35-18 at the foul line. Lillard completed a double-double with a game-high 10 assists.
Jusuf Nurkic also came up big with 22 points and a game-high 21 rebounds for Portland, while Carmelo Anthony was a fourth Trail Blazer with 20 or more points, going for 21.
Ja Morant and Jonas Valanciunas led the way for Memphis. Morant went for a game-high 35 points to complement eight assists, while Valanciunas contributed 22 points and 17 rebounds to the cause.
McCollum scored eight points in the final 3:08 as the Trail Blazers closed out the win.
After Portland bolted to a 30-14 lead just 10-plus minutes into the game, the Grizzlies got the better of the Trail Blazers for a majority of the next three quarters.
Memphis went up by three in the second period and six in the third, and retained a lead until McCollum bombed in a 3-pointer for a tie at 111 with 3:08 to play.
Nurkic followed with a three-point play 29 seconds later to give the Trail Blazers a lead they never relinquished, and McCollum helped pad the advantage with another 3-pointer and a two-point shot.
Led by Morant and Valanciunas, the Grizzlies clung within 119-116 with still 42.8 seconds to play, but Anthony buried arguably his most important shot since joining Portland in-season, a 3-pointer that doubled the margin to six with just 21.0 seconds to go.
Brandon Clarke and Dillon Brooks added 20 points each, and Kyle Anderson had 10 for Memphis, which outshot Portland 48.9% to 45.2.%
LILLARD NAMED MVP
Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard was named the runaway MVP of the seeding games at the NBA bubble near Orlando on Saturday.
Phoenix coach Monty Williams, whose Suns went 8-0 in the season restart, was named the top coach of the seeding games.
Lillard was the unanimous winner, securing all 22 first-place votes for 110 points. Devin Booker was a distant runner-up with 58 points. Joining Lillard and Booker on the All-Seeding Games first team were Indiana’s T.J. Warren, Dallas superstar Luka Doncic and James Harden of Houston.
Lillard averaged an NBA-high 37.6 points and 9.6 assists in the seeding games, leading Portland to a 6-2 record. The Trail Blazers won their final three seeding games, with Lillard scoring 51 points against the Philadelphia 76ers, tying his franchise scoring record with 61 points against the Dallas Mavericks, and finishing with 42 points and 12 assists in a victory over the Brooklyn Nets that clinched Portland’s spot in the Western Conference play-in.
Lillard had 31 points and 10 assists on Saturday as the Trail Blazers defeated the Memphis Grizzlies 126-122 in the play-in game. The win advanced the eighth-seeded Blazers into the first-round playoff series against the Los Angeles Lakers. That series starts on Tuesday.
Composing the All-Seeding Games second team were Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Los Angeles Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard, Brooklyn’s Caris LeVert, Denver’s Michael Porter, Jr. and Dallas’ Kristaps Porzingis.
Williams, who led the Suns to the NBA’s only unbeaten record in the seeding games and the franchise’s first eight-game winning streak since the 2009-10 season, was selected as the Coach of the Seeding Games with 20 of 21 first-place votes and 103 points.
Portland’s Terry Stotts received the other first-place vote and finished in second place with 41 points, followed by Brooklyn’s Jacque Vaughn (18 points) in third place.
The All-Seeding teams and coach were selected by a panel of sportswriters and broadcasters who have been on site covering the 2019-20 season restart at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex near Orlando. — Reuters