Likely NBA Bubble MVP Damian Lillard continued the magical run he’s been on at Disney World on Thursday night, dropping 42 points and coming up with a key steal late to help the Portland Trail Blazers just barely squeak past the Brooklyn Nets, 134-133, and thus earning the right to face the Memphis Grizzlies in the Western Conference play-in round. The win by the Blazers eliminated the Phoenix Suns, and the winner of the Blazers’ play-in match-up against the Grizzlies will meet the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the playoffs.
The Blazers and Grizzlies (who both played on Thursday) will now get one day off before meeting on Saturday in the first (and possibly only) game of the play-in round. As the eighth seed, the Blazers will only have to beat the Grizzlies once to move on and face the Lakers. If the Grizzlies win, the two teams will play again on Sunday in a winner-moves-on game with a playoff spot on the line.
Game one will tip-off on Saturday at 11:30 a.m. PT on ABC, and game two (if necessary) would take place on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. PT on ESPN. Whichever team moves on will begin the first round of the playoffs against the Lakers on Tuesday, August 18 at 6:00 p.m. PT on Spectrum SportsNet.
Here is the rest of the first round schedule for the Lakers:
Right now — both because of how hot Lillard has been in the bubble and how thoroughly mediocre the Grizzlies have looked — Portland moving on here seems like the far more likely scenario.
But while the Blazers have become a chic pick to surprise the Lakers — partially because of how good they’ve looked in the bubble while the Lakers have underwhelmed, but also because hot take artists have been desperate for the attention that comes with picking against L.A. — that probably won’t be an incredibly long series (if the Lakers wake up).
Yes, the Lakers don’t really have great options to defend Lillard, but here is a link to the Blazers’ roster. Tell me who is defending LeBron, and try not to laugh while you do it.
Tfw Melo and Gary Trent Jr. are gonna be your primary defenders pic.twitter.com/f0tLnEvq4E— Anthony F. Irwin (@AnthonyIrwinLA) August 14, 2020
There is also the matter that for all the Blazers’ bubble heroics, Lillard has been giving everything he has just to narrowly beat some thoroughly mediocre teams (and lose to the actively tanking Clippers).
Will Lillard’s sheer force of will be enough to drag the Blazers to a competitive series against the Lakers? Maybe, but it seems unlikely if L.A. starts to take things seriously now that the games matter. He’ll also have to take care of business against Memphis to squeak into the playoffs, first. When and if he does, we’ll break down the Blazers a bit more then.