The Portland Trail Blazers continued their impressive form with a 134-133 win over the Brooklyn Nets which assured the Oregon side a place in the NBA’s first play-in series.
Damian Lillard had 42 points but it was his defence that proved crucial, the 30-year-old stealing the ball from Brooklyn’s Caris LeVert with just over a minute left and getting it to CJ McCollum, who ate up time before notching up two more points to have Portland up by four.
LeVert had an opportunity to win it but missed on the game’s final shot, allowing Portland to claim eighth spot in the Western Conference.
On Sunday they will meet the ninth-placed Memphis Grizzlies, who downed the injury-ravaged Milwaukee Bucks 119-106, in a play-in series where the Grizzlies have to win both games to advance but the Blazers only have to triumph once to qualify for the post-season.
Portland’s victory ensures the season is over for the Phoenix Suns, despite them moving to 8-0 since the league resumed with a 128-102 slamming of the Dallas Mavericks.
Phoenix’s win, along with Grizzlies’ victory over the Bucks, ensured the San Antonio Spurs will miss the post-season for the first time in 23 years. The Spurs also lost 118-112 to the Utah Jazz on Thursday.
Meanwhile, the Sacramento Kings finished their season on a high with a 136-122 triumph over the Los Angeles Lakers, who move through to the play-offs in first position in the Western Conference.
The Boston Celtics also moved through to the post-season, despite losing 96-90 to the Washington Wizards, while the Orlando Magic beat the New Orleans Pelicans 133-127.