The Portland Trail Blazers ended up on the wrong side of a game with major postseason implications, falling 121-110 to the New Orleans Pelicans at Moda Center last night.
Anfernee Simons made a surprise start, coming back earlier than expected from an ankle injury. And then he re-injured that ankle.
The Blazers had a chance to leapfrog New Orleans and finish the night with at least a temporary spot in the NBA Play-In Tournament. They went in the opposite direction.
All-in-all, not a great night for Rip City.
Trail Blazers blow late lead for second consecutive night
Two nights ago, Portland held a 17-point lead at halftime against the Golden State Warriors. The Blazers led by 23 at one point.
Then they fell apart in massive fashion in the second half.
Portland was outscored by 35 points in the final 24 minutes against a Warriors team without Steph Curry, eventually losing 123-105.
It was more of the same against the Pelicans. The Trail Blazers led by three at halftime of a crucial game and carried that lead into the fourth quarter.
Then Portland was outscored by 12 in the final frame.
But hey, at least the Blazers had the decency to wait until the fourth quarter to collapse this time.
Anfernee Simons hurt again
It was shocking to hear the news that Simons was upgraded to questionable before the game. He was expected to miss at least a month with a Grade 2 ankle sprain – the same injury that’s kept Justise Winslow out.
That made it even more surprising, then, to hear that Ant would be playing. And that he would be in the starting lineup.
It was certainly welcome news, though, considering the game’s importance.
In fact, Simons and Damian Lillard even hit back-to-back threes to give Portland a 67-59 lead in the third quarter.
Then Portland’s second-leading scorer tweaked his already-injured ankle later in the third, left the floor and did not return.
It’s uncertain how long Simons will be out this time.
Where does this leave Portland in the Western Conference play-in standings?
A win would have given the Blazers possession of 10th place in the West. It would have also dropped New Orleans to 11th as the two teams battle with a handful of others for the final spots in this year’s play-in tournament.
Instead, the Pelicans remain 10th, while Portland dropped to 12th, now 1.5 games behind NOLA. With a win over OKC, the Los Angeles Lakers jumped into 11th.
The 7-13 spots in the Western Conference standings look like this, as of March 2 (teams 7-10 in the standings make up the play-in tournament):
7. Dallas Mavericks (12.0 games back of the first-place Denver Nuggets)
8. Minnesota Timberwolves (12.5)
9. Utah Jazz (13.0)
10. New Orleans Pelicans (13.0)
11. Los Angeles Lakers (14)
12. Portland Trail Blazers (14.5)
13. Oklahoma City Thunder (15.5)