Blazers' agonizing triumph: Suns and Spurs, eliminated

LeVert had a shot to eliminate Damian Lillard's team, which came back in the fourth quarter. The point guard (42) has averaged 51.3 in the last three games.


The Blazers will be in the new play in, the NBA's invention for this Florida bubble. A duel with the ninth, some Grizzlies that did not fail against some Bucks without tension, from which the rival of the Lakers will come out in the first round. Left out are the Spurs, who played with the Jazz (they were already out of options) and put their streak of consecutive playoff tickets at 22 (tied with the Nationals / 76ers), and the Suns, who have won their eight games in Florida but no one did them a favor on this decisive day. The Nets almost did, but the Blazers finally won: 133-134. A drama resolved on the horn with a final failure by LeVert, a clean shot that did not enter and that would have totally changed the landscape. The forward had signed a 2 + 1 in the previous play, which was followed by a Carmelo Anthony failure and the last ball for a Nets who did not play anything but almost changed the entire map of the West. Now they will fight (it was already known) against the Raptors and the Blazers will play tomorrow (20:30 Spanish time) the ticket for the playoffs with the Grizzlies. If the Oregonians win, they will be the rival of the Lakers starting Tuesday. If the Grizzlies win, there will be a final game on Sunday.

The last week of the Blazers has been stark, an invitation to a heart attack. After the drama of their loss to the Clippers, the game in which Damian Lillard missed two decisive free throws in the closing seconds, they faced three games that they had to win against the Sixers, Mavericks and Nets. They have won them, but how: 124-121, 131-134 and 133-134. A +7 with distressing finishes, comebacks in the last minutes and exhibitions to remember Damian Lillard. This time, the Nets were leading towards the fourth quarter (102-92) and still dominated (like the Mavericks a couple of days earlier) with four minutes to go (124-119). But the Blazers rowed to the end, led by an extraordinary player and in a trance who this time finished with 42 points and 12 assists. And an 8/14 in triples. Again, almost 45 minutes on the court for Damian Lillard, absolutely squeezed to carry a team that barely defends and has a rotation of seven or (maximum) eight players. Those would be very obvious problems against the Lakers. In his favor, this Lillard is capable of anything: in these last three games, 154 points (51.3 on average) and, curiously, only two missed free throws (41/43) after the two much vaunted against the Clippers . In the bubble, where he will win the Best Player award without a doubt, he has averaged 38 points and 10 assists in eight games with 56% shooting and 49% three-pointers.

This time Carmelo, the other hero against the Mavs (the day Lillard scored 61 points and saved the Blazers from a loss that seemed to a millimeter) was not doing well (9 points). But the two who suffered in that game were: Nurkic (22 points, 10 rebounds) and McCollum (25 and 7 assists). The Blazers have dynamite, a talent to beat anyone ... but the slightest defensive base fails them. Therefore, despite Lillard and despite his 134 points for the second consecutive game, they finally depended on a shot from LeVert (37 points, 6 rebounds, 9 assists) that went into limbo on the horn. There the fate of the miraculous Suns (8-0 in the bubble) and the play in was sealed: it will be, tomorrow, Portland Trail Blazers-Memphis Grizzlies. Damian Lillard's men seem very favorites ... and they just need a win with another bullet, Sunday, in the chamber.

The end of an era in the NBA: the Spurs, eliminated

It will undoubtedly be one of the stories that will be written the most in the coming days. The Spurs, who were trailing Orlando and without LaMarcus Aldridge, will not be in the playoffs. They lost to the Jazz (118-112) but their luck was cast after the victories of the Grizzlies and Suns. They come out of the bubble with a worthy 5-3 but a weak 32-39 total, 45% of victories that closes an era: after 22 consecutive seasons, there will be no playoffs for Gregg Popovich's men, who started the course with the goal to be the first team in history with 23 tickets in a row for the qualifiers. They remain with the same as the Nationales / 76ers between 1950 and 1971. In a game with nothing at stake, the Jazz prevailed, who will face the Denver Nuggets in the first round of the playoffs.

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