It wasn't easy.
The Trail Blazers and Nets traded baskets for most of the night Thursday. At the end of the first quarter, the game was all tied up at 31.
It was clear from the jump, the Nets wanted to play spoiler since Brooklyn had already locked up the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference before Thursday’s game.
Trail Blazers shooting guard CJ McCollum, who has reportedly been playing with a fractured back since Portland’s first seeding game, didn’t look like he was playing with pain as he found success from mid-range and at the rim. McCollum had a quick 12 points in the first quarter.
As for Nets shooting guard, Caris Levert, who has been hot in the Orlando bubble and was averaging 18.3 points heading into Thursday’s game, was in a groove against the Trail Blazers. Levert finished with 37 points.
The Nets shot 59.1 percent from the floor in the first half, but still trailed at halftime.
Portland led 73-67 at the break in big thanks to the Blazers backcourt duo of McCollum and Damian Lillard. The two combined for 35-first-half-points. Portland also dominated on the boards in the first half, outrebounding Brooklyn, 25-15.
As many NBA teams do, the Nets defended Lillard with two players blitzing him in hopes of forcing someone other than the Trail Blazers All-Star point guard to get buckets. Portland did get scoring from others, but the problem for the Blazers was that Brooklyn had six players in double figures.
Lillard and McCollum played the entire second half and Portland needed it.
Once again, the Blazers' final seeding game came down to the wire after the Nets outscored Portland, 37-24, in the third to take a 104-97 lead heading into the fourth.
Between Lillard, Jusuf Nurkic, and Carmelo Anthony's efforts in the fourth quarter, the Blazers left it all out on the floor and are now staying in Orlando.
Just a reminder, the first Western Conference play-in game will tip-off at 11:30 a.m. Saturday.
Here are three quick takeaways from Portland's eighth and final seeding game from our NBC Sports NW team:
Dwight Jaynes, Insider:
Blazers better get their three-point shooting touch back soon or they aren’t going to make it.— Dwight Jaynes (@dwightjaynes) August 14, 2020
All of these recent games for the Blazers have followed the same script…— Dwight Jaynes (@dwightjaynes) August 14, 2020
So far, just another Blazer bubble game — just trading baskets,— Dwight Jaynes (@dwightjaynes) August 14, 2020
Jamie Hudson, Reporter
The Blazers didn’t make it easy on themselves after allowing the Nets to see the ball go through the net early and often. You’ve got to give credit to the Nets throwing everything they had at Damian Lillard. Brooklyn definitely didn’t make it easy for Lillard and the Blazers. BUT, this Portland squad wanted this win more than anything and when Lillard is determined, nobody should ever bet against him.
Mike Richman, Reporter
Did this one feel familiar? An opponent scored at will. The Blazers were bad in third quarter. And Damian Lillard was really special. That seems to be the script for these. See you Saturday.
[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts Channing Frye and Dan Sheldon:]
Up Next: As the No. 8 seed the Trail Blazers will face the No. 9 seed Grizzlies in the first play-in game this Saturday at 11:30a.m. PST.
Also, be sure to check back throughout the rest of the night and tomorrow morning for analysis, articles, and videos from the players!