Damian Lillard scored 42 points, and the Portland Trail Blazers escaped with a 134-133 victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday night near Orlando to clinch the eighth seed in the Western Conference and a berth in the play-in series against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Following games of 51 and 61 points, Lillard helped Portland (35-39) clinch by scoring 12 points in the fourth quarter, including a 3-pointer from the edge of the NBA logo at halfcourt. He produced his 11th game of at least 40 points this season by shooting 13 of 22, including 8 of 14 on 3-point attempts.
Portland will host the ninth-seeded Grizzlies on Saturday, needing just one win to ensure a playoff berth. If the Blazers lose, the teams will play again Sunday, with the winner claiming the final playoff spot. The winner will draw the top-seeded Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the playoffs.
Lillard’s biggest play down the stretch actually came on the defensive end. Portland took a 134-130 lead on a jumper by C.J. McCollum with 53.4 seconds left, after Lillard poked the ball from behind while defending Caris LeVert just past midcourt.
Rebounding from Lillard’s steal, LeVert converted a 3-point play with 37.7 seconds left to cut the deficit to one. Following a missed 3-pointer by Carmelo Anthony, the dramatic game ended when LeVert’s step-back attempt over McCollum was short just with three-tenths of a second remaining.