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Harkless Rescues Blazers to Clinch Home Court Advantage

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The forward hit the buzzer-beating three to seal a 104-101 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers in the penultimate game of the regular season

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Los Angeles Lakers Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

The Portland Trail Blazers certainly made it interesting, but were able to survive a spirited effort from the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night—winning 104-101 to secure home court advantage in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. Maurice Harkless was the hero, scoring the team’s final 12 points, including a game winning three-pointer at the buzzer. Harkless led Portland with 26 total points on the night, while Kentavious Caldwell-Pope paced the Lakers with a game-high 32.

The Lakers, playing without virtually the entire core of their roster, hung right with Portland for the entire game, and actually held the lead for much of the fourth quarter. The Blazers rallied back, however, and it appeared the game would head to overtime. Then, with the score tied and less than 20 seconds remaining, Seth Curry stole the ball from Alex Caruso. Without calling a timeout, Portland whipped the ball around the perimeter to find the open Harkless in the corner—who provided the final dagger in the Lakers’ disastrous season.

Clutch When It Counts

It’s ironic that the Blazers won this game on a three pointer, because for much of the night they were downright awful from distance. They finished the game just 11-37 (29.7%) from downtown, and even that was buoyed by the 5-8 from Curry alone. CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard combined to go just 4-17 from three-point land.

Additionally, Harkless was an extremely unlikely candidate to be the one to make the big three. While he shot well overall for the game (9-14), he was 0-3 from deep before the game winner. He’s also shooting only 27.6% from three on the season, the lowest mark of his career since the 2014-15 campaign, when he was playing with the Orlando Magic.

Playing For Jobs

You’ve got to give the Lakers a lot of credit for what they did tonight, especially considering the immense distraction surrounding the team that took place in the arena just minutes before game-time. However, this plucky bunch played with an inspired effort. While Caldwell-Pope did the heavy lifting, he was just 11-31 from the field, and it was very much a team effort.

The likes of Alex Caruso (12 points, 13 assists), Mike Muscala (16 points), and two-way contract players Jemerrio Jones (11 points, 15 rebounds) and Johnathan Williams (12 points, 10 rebounds) really rose to the occasion, and almost pulled off the major upset. The Lakers were active defensively, and took advantage of 14 Blazer turnovers—converting them for 23 points the other way. They had a lot of the success on the offensive end as well, and exploited the Blazers’ defensive inefficiencies—particularly with the pick-n-roll combo of Caruso and JaVale McGee.

Key Players

Harkless was excellent all night, well before his heroics. In addition to his scoring, he gave the team eight rebounds and four big blocks on the defensive end.

Lillard finished with 20 points and eight assists, but was just 6-16 from the field.

McCollum, in his second game back from injury, went for 11 points on 5-13 shooting. He picked up the game-winning assist.

Enes Kanter had a monster first quarter—scoring 15 points on 6-8 shooting. He cooled off in the second half, but still finished with 22 points and 16 rebounds.

Curry was magnificent off the bench, scoring 19 points and picking up three steals.

Evan Turner had six points on 2-5 shooting, along with three boards and three dimes.

Rodney Hood, Jake Layman, Al-Farouq Aminu and Zach Collins combined to go 0-16 from the field.

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The Blazers close out the regular season tomorrow night against the Sacramento Kings, with tip-off scheduled for 7:30 pm PT at Moda Center. A win—coupled with a Denver Nuggets win—would earn the team the third seed in the Western Conference.