No one can beat Lillard

The Sixers shot with pride without Simmons and after Embiid's injury, but they couldn't against Lillard. Portland, midway through the Grizzlies.


Beyond the Grizzlies, the ones who may start to be scared are the Lakers. Because of that hypothetical first-round matchup, which seems to have less and less hypothetical if we take into account the pace the Blazers are taking. The Angelenos, with the loss of an Avery Bradley who is the only one with physical and defensive capabilities to slightly disturb Damian Lillard, and far from their best moment of the season, could have problems against the eighth classified in the West. As long as these end up being the ones from Oregon. The absence of field advantage in the playoffs can benefit teams that arrive without it, something differential that can mark many ties in a season finale marked by the greatest of unknowns.

There are still a few days to find out who will be the eighth in the West, but the Grizzlies have fewer and fewer options to occupy that place. The loss to the Raptors and the victories of Spurs (against Pelicans) and Blazers, leave them only half a game ahead of the latter. And the position that they had defended throughout the year in a way that was as unexpected as it deserved, hangs today by a very fine thread that can leave them without an advantage in the play-in ... and without the opportunity to even play it. Pelicans and Kings are out of the fight, but there are still four teams left for two places and only two days to end this small regular season that the NBA has created from scratch to be able to have a champion.

And to all this, the Blazers are not in great boasting either. The other day they lost to the Clippers' substitutes, and today they have done the same against some limp Sixers, who did not have Ben Simmons and lost Embiid when he had played less than six minutes of play. They left with an advantage in the first period (33-19), but those of the always questioned Brett Brown managed to make his team tighten things before the break (67-58) and turn it around with 12 minutes to go (91-92 ). There appeared, of course, Damian Lillard, who could well have been included in the string for the MVP of the season in which LeBron, Anteto and Harden are found. 18 of the 33 points of his team in the last period carried his signature, reaching 51 (with 7 assists) and showing again his most monstrous version, supported by 20 goals from Carmelo, 15 from Nurkic or 16 from McCollum. Gary Trent Jr. was not a differentiating factor this time while Josh Richardson was the best of his (34 + 5 + 6) in the absence of the Sixers stars.

Lillard achieves his fifth game of the season of 50 or more points with this meeting, and becomes one of only 10 players who has reached that number in at least 10 games during his career. And he continues to add integers to get some playoffs that in March seemed from far away to impossible, but whose fight has had the messiah base and one of the most feared offenses in the competition as a watchword. The Lakers have reason to worry. Because yes, the Blazers, down from Ariza through, do not defend anything. But the Angelenos are now defending themselves. And who can stop Lillard?

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