Lillard, Blazers rally past Nets to clinch play-in spot

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.

McCollum added 25 points, while Jusuf Nurkic collected 22 along with 10 rebounds for Portland, which went 6-2 in the restart. Gary Trent Jr. and Hassan Whiteside contributed 16 apiece for the Trail Blazers, who shot 48.1 percent.

LeVert led the Nets with 37 points on 16-of-29 shooting, including a jumper with 4:18 remaining that gave Brooklyn a 124-119 lead. Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Joe Harris added 19 points each, and Tyler Johnson chipped in 16 for Brooklyn (35-37), which will face second-seeded Toronto in Game 1 of the first-round on Monday.

Portland held an 82-74 lead on a spinning layup by Whiteside with 9:36 left in the third, but the Nets came back and outscored the Blazers 30-15 the rest of the quarter to get a 104-97 lead entering the fourth. Brooklyn took its first lead since early in the second quarter on a tip-in by Jarrett Allen with 5:21 left in the third and built a 102-92 lead on a 3-pointer by Luwawu-Cabarrot with 1:48 to go in the frame.

Neither team led by more than six points, and both teams shot over the 50 percent as the first quarter ended in a 31-31 tie. Lillard scored 12 points in the second quarter, and Portland took a 73-67 lead at halftime.