Fri Aug 14 12:27am ET
Portland Trail Blazers' Damian Lillard, left, goes up with the ball against Brooklyn Nets' Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot during the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, Pool)
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) With the season threatening to slip away, Damian Lillard decided it was time to shoot, even though he was so far his foot was touching the logo near midcourt.
A few minutes later, he flung his body to the floor near the same spot, coming up with a steal that was the biggest defensive play of the game.
Lillard did it all to give Portland a spot in the NBA's first play-in series, scoring 42 points to help the Trail Blazers escape with a 134-133 victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday night.
''The urgency, the energy, the pace, everything, just felt like something was on the line,'' LIllard said.
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.
Unlike the Grizzlies and Suns, who romped in their afternoon games, the Blazers needed to go all the way to the wire to beat the Nets. Portland scored 73 points in the first half, but led by only six after Brooklyn shot 59%.
LeVert then scored 10 points in the first five minutes of the third quarter, part of what became a 17-3 run as Brooklyn turned an eight-point deficit into a 91-85 lead. A 3-pointer by Luwawu-Cabarrot extended the lead to 102-92 with 1:46 left in the period and the Nets took a 104-97 advantage to the fourth.
Lillard then hit a couple of 3s - one with a foot touching the logo near midcourt - during a 12-4 surge that wiped out a seven-point deficit and put Portland back on top 112-111.
''Honestly the roll that he's been on, we were missing some shots and that's Dame,'' Blazers coach Terry Stotts said about Lillard's decision to launch from 36 feet with the Nets trying to force the ball out of his hands as soon as he crossed midcourt.
Brooklyn would later go back on top by five before the Portland pulled it out.
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.
''Like I said, we played a great eight games but now it's time to really lock in,'' LeVert said.
Trail Blazers: Stotts confirmed that McCollum is battling an injury but wouldn't offer many details. ''He has the issue with his back, he's playing through it and that's about all I can say,'' Stotts said.
Nets: Brooklyn played its last night game for a while. The first three games of the series against Toronto are all afternoon starts. Game 4, set for Aug. 23, is a 6:30 p.m. EDT start. ... Chris Chiozza (right adductor tightness) and Donta Hall (right ankle sprain) sat out.
HOPES FOR HARRIS
General manager Sean Marks, in an interview with Yes Network, said re-signing Harris will be at the top of the team's list this summer.
''Priority No. 1. It's that simple, yeah,'' Marks said. ''Joe, I think we've talked about plenty of times. We're obviously very proud of where Joe has come from and where he is today. And he still continues to get better. Still wants to work on his craft. So yeah, signing him and seeing him with this group will certainly be a priority for us.''
Trail Blazers: Play Memphis on Saturday.
Nets: Play Game 1 against Toronto on Monday.
Denver Nuggets forward Jerami Grant is expected to opt-out of the final year of his contract. He is set to make $9.4 million next season, but is set to become an unrestricted free agent. Grant was one of the best players during the Nuggets playoff run, so it's not surprising to see him testing the open market. After Saturday's loss, Grant did express interest in playing with Denver next season. Grant obviously believes he is worth more money, so we'll see if the Nuggets plan on giving it to him. He has significantly raised his fantasy value this season.
Atlanta Hawks forward John Collins made 100 consecutive free throws at the end of Sunday's practice. He has improved his free throw percentage each season in the NBA. Collins hit 71.5 percent as a rookie, 76.3 percent in his second season, and 80.0 percent in 2019-20. He continues to become a better player each and every season. Collins is a fantasy star in the making and will get plenty of looks in the first round of drafts.
Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward is expected to accept his player option for next season. The option is worth $34 million, which is much higher than Hayward would receive on the open market. His time in Boston has been disappointing, but injuries have derailed him for most of it. He averaged 17.5 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 4.1 assists this season, which is his best season in Boston. He could be someone worth looking at late in drafts next season.
Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum is expected to receive a max contract extension from the organization this offseason. This is a no-brainer for the Celtics after the 22-year-old proved himself to be a superstar this season. He averaged 25.7 points, 10.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.2 blocks, 1.0 steals and 2.8 triples during the playoffs. It appears the Celtics have a superstar forward for the foreseeable future. Expect Tatum to be someone coming off early in the first round of many fantasy draft boards.
Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine is excited to begin working with new head coach Billy Donovan. I was extremely happy, LaVine said of the hire. He continued by saying if you want to be great then you need to be coached extremely well. Former head coach Jim Boylen failed to get the most of his young core during his time in Chicago. LaVine is one of many young Bulls players who should benefit from the hiring of Donovan. The Bulls have a legitimate shot at the playoffs with Donovan running the show. Some of these young Bulls players could be climbing up draft boards in fantasy leagues pretty quick.
Indiana Pacers guard Victor Oladipo is reportedly looking to play elsewhere after the two sides failed to agree on terms for a contract extension. Oladipo reportedly turned down an offer of four years $80 million as he believes that he is worth more than that. Sadly, Oladipo has not looked the same since his quad injury. He averaged 17.8 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists on 39 percent shooting during the playoffs. Oladipo still has one year left on his contract. However, the team is likely going to shop him around if Oladipo plans to walk after next season.
Los Angeles Lakers guard Danny Green (finger) is listed as probable for Thursday's Game 4 versus the Denver Nuggets. He tweaked his left ring finger on his non-shooting hand. Green is fully expected to suit up for this one. He hasn't put together great fantasy value during the playoffs, but has had his moments. Alex Caruso (wrist) and Rajon Rondo might see more minutes if Green does sit out. Fantasy owners should check back for another update closer to tip-off on Thursday.
New York Knicks center Mitchell Robinson has decided to sit out the upcoming voluntary workouts in the bubble. He did go through some individual workouts last week, but has chosen to not attend these events. The workouts start on Wednesday, but Robinson won't participate due to personal reasons. It would've been nice to see Robinson get in some extra work with head coach Tom Thibodeau. However, there is plenty of time for that with the season likely not starting until January. Robinson should have promising upside for fantasy leagues next season.
Sacramento Kings guard Buddy Hield had a fairly rocky season, but did find some success coming off the bench with the second unit. Kings general manager Monte McNair praised Hield and mentioned that he is an important piece to their vision. Hield didn't seem too happy about playing off the bench, so we'll see if that changes going forward. McNair mentioned that he wants head coach Luke Walton to increase the pace next season. Whether he's starting or off the bench, Hield is worth grabbing in the middle rounds of most drafts next season.
Los Angeles Lakers guard Alex Caruso (wrist) is listed as probable for Thursday's Game 4 contest against the Denver Nuggets. Caruso mentioned that his left wrist felt a little stiff after Tuesday's loss. He'll get an MRI on Wednesday, but Caruso is expected to play through the issue. Fantasy owners should check back for another update before tip-off on Thursday. Rajon Rondo would likely see more minutes coming his way if Caruso sits out.
Los Angeles Lakers guard Dion Waiters (groin) is expected to miss Tuesday's Game 3 contest against the Denver Nuggets. Waiters has missed each of the last five games due to a left groin injury. He is currently listed as doubtful for this game, so it's unlikely that he suits up here. His absence won't mean a whole lot for the Lakers rotation. Alex Caruso and Rajon Rondo could see a few extra minutes coming their way.
New Orleans Pelicans guard J.J. Redick mentioned that he'd like to play another four years in the league. "I realized this year I want to keep playing as long as possible. My goal is to play four more years," said Redick. He'll walk away from the game when he turns 40 years old, assuming his body can hold up until then. It's not unrealistic to think that Redick can play four more seasons after averaging 15.3 points this season. He has one year left on his current deal with the Pelicans. Redick usually carries some low-end fantasy value, assuming he continues to play like he did this season.
Cleveland Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson has shown interest in staying with the organization next season. It sounds like there is mutual interest between both sides, but it's unclear if a deal will happen. Bringing back Thompson wouldn't make much sense if Andre Drummond accepts his player option, which he is expected to do. Thompson might be forced to test his luck on the free agent market. He won't have much value in fantasy hoops if stays in Cleveland alongside Drummond.
Boston Celtics guard Romeo Langford (wrist) is scheduled to undergo surgery on Tuesday and will miss the rest of the postseason. He'll undergo surgery to repair the scapholunate ligament in his right wrist. The Celtics have not given a timetable for the young guards return yet. However, the season isn't expected to start until around December, so Langford should have plenty of time to recover. His absence won't mean much for the Celtics rotation. Hopefully he'll be able to contribute to the team next season.
Los Angeles Clippers guard Paul George and forward Kawhi Leonard are committed to playing alongside each other. Both players have one year left on their deals, but have player options for the following season. Obviously, they didn't get the result they wanted this season, but they'll have another shot at it soon. The Clippers are desperate to make this core work after trading seven first-rounders and a future star in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander for George. Both players should remain top tier fantasy options in leagues next season.
Denver Nuggets guard/forward Will Barton (knee) is not expected to return to the team at any point of the Western Conference Finals against the Lakers, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic. The 29-year-old has not appeared in a game since the NBA restart in Orlando as he continues to rehabilitate from a knee injury that he suffered earlier in the season. With the Nuggets two games away from elimination in the Western Conference Finals, Barton's next game action will likely be delayed to the start of the 2020-21 season after averaging 15.1 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.1 steals on 45% shooting from field goal range through 58 games during the 2019-20 season.
Cleveland Cavaliers forward Dylan Windler (leg) is ready to participate in 5-on-5 workouts. He was a first round pick by the Cavs in 2019, but didn't play in a single game for the team. Windler suffered a leg injury that resulted in surgery, which cost him the entire season. It sounds like he is making progress and getting ready for next year. However, he'll face an uphill battle for minutes after the emergence of Kevin Porter Jr. towards the end of the regular season. Windler could find some minutes in Cleveland next season, but probably won't play enough to warrant drafting in most formats.
Washington Wizards forward Davis Bertans decided to sit out the Orlando bubble in order to preserve his health for free agency. Bertans is an upcoming free agent and the Wizards had a slim chance of making the playoffs. He didn't believe it was worth the risk after not playing basketball for almost two months. Bertans sitting out shouldn't hinder his value whatsoever on the free agent market. He'll be a highly coveted player, but the Wizards are likely going to be aggressive to keep him in Washington.
Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo had a three-hour meeting with co-owner Marc Lasry on Saturday. They reportedly discussed the season and how the Bucks can improve their roster. Lasry confirmed that he is willing to go over the luxury tax this offseason. It sounds like the Bucks are trying everything to keep Antetokounmpo happy in Milwaukee. We'll see what happens during the offseason.
Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward (ankle) has been ruled out for Tuesday's Game 1 against the Miami Heat. He was listed as doubtful, but it appears Hayward will remain sidelined for this one. Hayward is likely going to need to go through a full practice before being allowed back on the court. The team is hopeful that Hayward will be able to play at some point during this series. It's unclear whether or not he'll be limited when he does return. Fantasy owners should keep an eye out for updates. In the meantime, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart will benefit with increased playing time.