It was a crazy night that ended with the Trail Blazers knowing they’ll face the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round of the playoffs, beginning Sunday afternoon in Portland.
And speaking of crazy, that may be a nutty series, given the level of testiness between the teams for the last couple of seasons.
Portland swept the Thunder last season, then got swept this season. Many of the games were marked by scuffles and angry words.
“I think it will be fun,” Evan Turner said. “Competitive games. I think they’ll be great for TV. It will be cool.”
Coach Terry Stotts, who may not have picked OKC as the opponent if he’d had his choice -- and he kind of did have his choice -- talked about the Thunder.
“It should be a good matchup,” Stotts said. “They’ve been very competitive games with Oklahoma City last year and this year. Both teams are very similar, both last year and this year. It should be pretty competitive.”
The regular-season finale was one of the weirdest NBA games you’ll ever see. Stotts’ stated intention was to rest players against the Kings, which he did in droves. I don’t think anyone expected he’d use only six players – and rest his top seven.
It was the first time an NBA team went with only six players since April 15, 2015, when Miami did it against Philadelphia, which was also the final game of the regular season.
Those six Portland players got behind by 28 points in the first half but rallied in the second half to win 136-131 behind Anfernee Simons’ 37 points and nine assists. He, along with fellow rookie Gary Trent Jr., played the full 48 minutes.
It appeared to all the world that Stotts was attempting to manipulate his team's first-round matchup to meet Utah. For that to happen, Portland needed to lose or have Denver lose.
Much of the night it appeared both would happen but the Nuggets finished off Minnesota with a late rally and Portland’s comeback settled the matchup with the Thunder.
Portland made 58.2 percent of its shots and 14-24 from three-point range. All five Trail Blazer starters played at least 40 minutes and Layman also played 48.
Stotts admitted to getting updates on the Denver game throughout his team’s contest. But once his Spirited Six mounted that comeback there was little he could do to stop it.
The Kings helped by not using their starters in the second half, as if to say, “You think you can lose this game? Well, we can do it better than you.”
Stotts said, “I thought we had a chance. A Denver loss would have been pretty cool for us.”
He said he was talking about a three-way tie for second place in the conference, which would have thrown Portland into the fourth spot – against Utah.
Instead, the Blazers ended up No. 3 vs. the Thunder.
“Here we are in the three seed in back-to-back years,” Damian Lillard said. “Being a top three team in the West is an accomplishment.
“That’s showing a certain amount of grit and desire to get back to this point. We should be proud of ourselves.
“Every game we’ve played against (the Thunder) has been close. We know that we’re capable of beating them.
“Each game this season came down to a possession here and a possession there. This is going to be a tough, tough series and I think we’ve got to go out and be aggressive coming into it.
“Our mentality has to be the aggressor and go in there with the attitude that we’re getting it done.”
The series opens in Moda Center on ABC Sunday at 12:30, PDT, with Game 2 slated for 7:30 Tuesday night,
Games 3 and 4 will be on Friday and Sunday nights in Oklahoma City.