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Portland beats Denver, sets up Warriors vs. Lakers play-in game; West payoffs set

Corey Robinson asks PBT's Kurt Helin about his picks for the All-NBA First Team, which leads Helin to explain why the guard discussion is so difficult this year.

It’s the glamour matchup of the play-in tournament, one that will draw big ratings on Wednesday night.

And it’s going to have some network suits nervous that they could lose one of the biggest draws of the postseason before the playoffs even get started.

A focused Portland team raced out to a big early lead, Denver shut down its stars early, and the Trail Blazers cruised to a 132-116 win on Sunday night.

That victory secured the No. 6 seed for the Blazers, sending the Lakers — which beat the Pelicans 110-98 — to host the Warriors in the 7/8 play-in game Wednesday night at Staples Center.

Lakers vs. Warriors is a marquee draw. Stephen Curry vs. LeBron James. The teams that have won four of the last six NBA championships.

But whichever team loses that showdown will go into a win-of-go-home play-in tournament game on Friday that will have television network executives burning sage in the arena, fearful of losing one of the big television draws of the playoffs.

In other West action Sunday night, the Jazz beat the Kings, the Thunder beat the Clippers, and Minnesota beat Dallas. That left these West playoff matchups:

No. 1 Utah vs. No. 8 seed (winner of third play-in game)
No. 2. Phoenix vs. No. 7 seed (winner of Warriors at Lakers game)
No. 3. Denver vs. No. 6 Portland
No. 4 L.A. Clippers vs. No. 5 Dallas

In the play-in games, the Lakers host the Warriors in the 7/8 game on Wednesday, with the winner becoming the No. 7 seed and facing the Suns. Also Wednesday, the Grizzlies host the Spurs in the 9/10 play-in game — the loser goes home. The winner of the Grizzlies vs. Spurs will travel to take on the loser of the Lakers vs. Warriors on Friday night.