LOS ANGELES – The Trail Blazers bench unloaded in an uproar of cheers and excitement after Blazers starting small forward Maurice Harkless swished home a game-winning three-pointer to beat the Lakers, 104-101 on Tuesday night.
Harkless finished with a season-high 26 points and the Blazers finished with the feeling of securing homecourt in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.
Blazers head coach Terry Stotts has said the goal this week was to make sure his team locked down the fourth seed and the last possession at Staples Center on Tuesday did just that (and there's still a chance at the three seed).
“Moe Harkless had a tremendous game, made big plays at the offensive end, arguably one of his best games of the season, really active, worked the baseline well… Seth Curry’s steal at the end put ourselves in a position to win the game,” Stotts said.
It was all smiles in the Blazers locker room postgame.
“Obviously it’s a great feeling in the locker room right now after that and to get homecourt, to confirm it,” Harkless said.
Harkless scored the Blazers final 12 points of the game including not only knocking down the game winning three, but also hitting clutch free throws down the stretch.
“He put himself in good positions. I think his teammates did a good job of finding him,” Stotts said.
The Blazers were tied at 101 with 18.2 seconds remaining when Seth Curry stole the ball from Alex Caruso.
“We knew we had to get a stop right there. Caruso had it going a little bit, so I just had to sit down and guard him. I knew he was going right a lot throughout the night, just playing a game within the game,” Curry said.
The Blazers then called for a full timeout.
Lillard explained how he surveyed what the defense was giving him when they came back out on the court after the timeout.
“Pretty much this whole season, end of quarters, end of games, whenever it’s a chance for us to go hit a last shot, teams don’t let me go no more, they just run two guys at the ball… My first look, I was looking at CJ… I hit CJ and Moe just popped out to the corner,” Lillard said.
“We thought Dame was gonna get the shot, they sent the double, he was able to find CJ, my guy rotated, CJ dropped it off to me in the corner, I knew I had to shoot it. I just shot the ball with confidence,” Harkless added.
Rising up with confidence was what it took to beat the scrappy young Lakers squad.
AT THE BUZZER!!! Moe Harkless says "Good Night Los Angeles" pic.twitter.com/W1LNuZP2oD— NBC Sports Northwest (@NBCSNorthwest) April 10, 2019
McCollum, who said his knee felt good after his second game back, thought that Harkless was the key to a victory on Tuesday.
“He hit a big shot for us, he sealed the game for us. He made a lot of great plays that made the difference,” McCollum said.
“He’s getting in playoff mode and it just shows the work he’s put in over the course of his career, being able to hit jumpers, score in the paint, make free throws, defend, block some shots, he did a little bit of everything tonight and that was all the difference,” McCollum added.
Lillard feels that coming up big this season is nothing new for Harkless.
“He’s had a lot of moments were he came up big for us and usually it was in the form of a block or a big rebound, or a big offensive rebound and then he dunks -- it’s always like that,” Lillard said.
What’s the difference in Harkless’ play on Tuesday?
“I was just taking my time, locking in for every possession, every shot, it’s winning time, man,” Harkless said.
But the real biggest difference might just be that he is now completely healthy.
“I’m feeling really good. I’m able to move well and not really feel restricted or anything,” Harkles said.
“I’m feeling athletic again,” Harkless said with a big smile.
A healthy Moe heading into the postseason is just what the Blazers need and it’s just what is making Harkless happy right now.
“It’s been a long process, so I’m happy to be playing, and that I’m feeling well at this point in the season,” Harkless said.
So now the big question is -- do the Blazers rest their key players or chase a higher seed on Wednesday night vs. the Kings?