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Recap: Nurkic, Clutch Shooting Carries Blazers Over Grizzlies 126-122

Jusuf Nurkic’s monster game and some timely shooting in the fourth quarter sends Portland to the playoffs.

NBA: Play In-Memphis Grizzlies at Portland Trail Blazers Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

The Blazers are going to the playoffs.

Completing the process that began over two weeks ago, the Portland Trail Blazers were able to fend off a hungry Memphis Grizzlies squad 126-122 to win the first-ever Western Conference Play-In, earning the 8th seed and advancing to the playoffs where they will take on the Los Angeles Lakers for the first time in 18 years.

Portland jumped out of the gates to an early 12-point first quarter lead, but Memphis quickly closed the gap and refused to go away. The Grizzlies even held a lead with just a few minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, but some clutch buckets from CJ McCollum and Carmelo Anthony helped seal the deal.

Damian Lillard followed up being named the unanimous MVP of the bubble earlier today with relatively modest 31 points and 10 assists. He was hounded by the Grizzly defense all night and only one of his 15 field goal attempts came from inside the arc.

Box Score

Give it up for the big man

Playing with a heavy heart after announcing this morning via Instagram that his grandmother had passed away from COVID-19, Jusuf Nurkic delivered an inspired performance, finishing with a monster 22 points, 21 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 blocks and 2 steals. He was every bit the “Bonsian Beast” for all 41 minutes he was on the floor (where he was a team best +18) and was the heart and soul of the team.

Can we cancel halftime?

After carrying a six-point lead into halftime, the Blazers gave it all back and then some in yet another third quarter collapse, this time being outscored 42-31 in the period. Since the beginning of the restart, Portland has a net negative of 51 points in third quarter, which is just about frustrating enough to make you pull the hair from your head. What are they doing in the locker room?

To watch closely

Zach Collins played only seven minutes before exiting the game with what was later reported to be left ankle inflammation. He was listed as questionable but did not return.

What’s next

The Blazers will get two days off (the most rest they’ve had in Orlando) before meeting LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the playoffs. Game 1 will tip off Tuesday at 6 p.m. Pacific.