The Portland Trail Blazers did as expected, beating the Denver Nuggets to finish the season 44-38 and capture the fifth seed in the Western Conference. They actually captured the seed earlier in the evening, after the Mavericks lost to the Spurs The Blazers now prepare to play the fourth-seed Los Angeles Clippers, which will begin over the weekend in LA.
The Blazers were led by Damian Lillard with 21 points and 5 assists. The Nuggets were led by Emmanuel Mudiay with 25 points.
There was an aura of relief at the Moda Center tonight, liken to when you have been preparing for an important test all week long and when the big day comes a substitute teacher walks in and announces there will be no test today. The Nuggets jumped to an early 15-10 lead, the Blazers playing a little more tranquil than they were probably expecting. But, in an area the Blazers will need to improve upon in the coming days, the Nuggets were beating the Blazers in the rebound battle rather handily. Steals, 12 free throw attempts, and numerous Denver turnovers kept the Blazers in the game despite their lackluster field goal percentage and all-around deflated effort. Nikola Jokic hit a three at the buzzer to give Denver a four point lead. Damian Lillard scored eight to lead the Blazers
End of First: Portland 27, Denver 31
Allen Crabbe was on tonight. His early three in the quarter gave Portland the lead and he nearly had an opportunity for a four-point play moments later. His aggressive demeanor spearheaded Portland's more lively effort in the second. Pat Connaughton got the nod from the bench to get some quality playing time, as did Noah Vonleh and Brian Roberts. Damian Lillard tied a franchise record when he hit his 826 career three. Lillard also said scored on Portland's final possession to give the Blazers the lead going into the second half. Crabbe led Portland with 16 points.
Halftime: Portland 58, Denver 56
Damian Lillard began the quarter hitting his 827 career three, becoming the all-time franchise leader for three pointers. And that's it, goodnight everyone......
Well, I guess we still have 23 minutes to play. Portland built a 12-point lead by the midway point, perhaps sensing it was time to put this one to bed and focus on bigger fish to fry. But Will Barton scored five straight to cut the Blazers lead to four with just over two minutes to go. CJ McCollum ended the quarter with a beauty of a step-back two and the Blazers were still leading the way heading into the fourth.
End of Third: Portland 87, Denver 79
The Blazers built their biggest lead of the game and checked out of this one early. Portland rested their starters for the entire quarter and let the bench run the court for some quality time. The end of the regular season ends with a win over the Denver Nuggets. On to the playoffs.
The Blazers will begin the playoffs against the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday. Stay tuned to Blazer's Edge tonight, for extended analysis of this game from Dave Deckard.