Before the NBA season was postponed, the Memphis Grizzlies looked like the favorites to keep the eighth seed in the Western Conference. They had a solid lead on the rest of the pack and were riding on the momentum of star rookie and likely Rookie of the Year Ja Morant.
Now, it looks like anything is possible.
The rules regarding the NBA restart state that if the ninth seed in either conference is within four games of a playoff spot, a play-in series will be held. In the West, that could end up being a mini tournament with many teams gunning for that final spot. Only eight regular season games remaining will make it a tight finish.
Portland were written off until the restart rules took place. While All-star point guard Damian Lillard was playing some of the best basketball of his career, injuries left their roster thin and the Blazers fell several games below .500. Since Covid-19 postponed the season, they’ve regained two key players in Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins.
They proved their a force with a big overtime win over the Grizzlies on Friday.
Lillard’s running mate CJ McCollum led the way with 33 points on 14-21 shooting. Lillard pitched in another 29 points along with 9 assists. Nurkic made his impact especially known with 18 points, 9 boards, 5 assists, and 6 blocks.
Memphis put up a fight in the 140-135 loss. Jaren Jackson Jr. poured in 33 points, and shot 40% from three. Morant struggled shooting but ended with 22 points and 11 assists. Fellow rookie Brandon Clarke was incredibly efficient off the bench scoring 21 on only 8 field goal attempts.
These teams are likely going to battle for the last playoff spot in the West. We haven’t seen the last of this match up yet.
Featured photo credit: Jaime Valdez – USA Today Sports
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