With one game to spare, the Portland Trail Blazers jump into No. 8 in the West with a win over the Dallas Mavericks.
If you’re a neutral NBA fan, the Blazers’ bubble games have been a dream. If you’re a Blazer fan, each game has likely been filled with anxiety and tension as the Portland Trail Blazers continue to fight for a spot in the play in tournament.
While the Blazers aren’t out of the woods, their 134-131 victory over the Dallas Mavericks pushed them into the eight seed for the first time since arriving in Orlando.
Fueled by a career high tying 61 points from Damian Lillard, the Blazers found a way to take down the league’s highest rated offense, despite a coincidentally combined 61 points from Mavs’ duo Luka Dončić and Kristaps Porziņģis.
Although Dallas shot the ball at 51.9 percent, Portland managed to force 17 turnovers and significantly out-rebound their opponents. Defense has been a consistent issue for the Portland Trail Blazers all season, and while Portland struggled to guard the perimeter, they did enough to keep Dallas from going on any lengthy runs at any point in the game.
CJ McCollum undeniably struggled today, shooting just 2-of-14 on the night. Still, he managed to sink two clutch free throws in the final seconds of the game to give Portland the three point lead that sealed the win.
As superhuman as Dame’s 61-point, 17-of-32 shooting performance was, he could not have done it alone. If anyone deserves the silver medal performance of the game, it’s absolutely Carmelo Anthony. The 36-year-old took his game to the young, undersized Mavericks given the unfortunate task of guarding him.
Earning 26 points on 10-of-17 shooting, Anthony hit the shots he needed to, while also providing some incredible defensive skills, earning two steals and providing a solid defensive performance, guarding all the way from the one to the five at various times during the game.
Looking ahead, the Brooklyn Nets serve as the final hurdle for Portland as they inch closer to earning a spot in the Western Conference Play-In Tournament. Now half a game ahead of both the Memphis Grizzlies and the Phoenix Suns, a win would give them the Play-In advantage, meaning they would only be required to win one game to advance to the official 2020 NBA Playoffs.
While the Nets are without Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and DeAndre Jordan, their 5-2 bubble record matches Portland, proving that this injury-riddled squad will not go down without a fight.
The Blazers’ final regular season game takes place Thursday, August 13, at 6pm PDT.