Zach Collins says he has 'no limitations' with left shoulder

Zach Collins says he has 'no limitations' with left shoulder

The NBA hiatus was a blessing in disguise for Trail Blazers big man Zach Collins.

The 2019-20 season, Collins' third season in the league, was supposed to be a season that saw Zach Collins starting at the four and him showcasing his improved patience on the defensive end while also taking a bigger leap forward in the scoring department as well.  

But then, he played in just two and a half games, basically.

Rewind to Oct. 27th in the third game of the 2019-20 season when the Blazers visited the Dallas Mavericks. Collins got tangled up with Luka Doncic when they both went for a rebound with 2:01 left in the third quarter.

That’s when it happened. Collins came down holding his dislocated left shoulder.

The 7-footer shared an update on his shoulder during a Thursday Zoom call.

“It feels normal. It feels like a regular shoulder, so I’m good.”

[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon]

After some deliberation with team doctors and his family, Collins and the Blazers both decided it was best for Collins to have shoulder surgery when looking at the long-term plan of the young 21-year-old's career.

Collins had successful surgery to repair his left labrum on Nov. 5 and was then to be re-evaluated in approximately four months. 

Now fast-forward through a nearly three-month NBA layoff and Collins has been cleared to play with an expectation that he won't have any minutes restriction either. 

The shoulder feels great. No limitations. I have had no reason to believe that it will hold me back from doing anything. I feel pretty normal on the court like the surgery didn’t even happen, so I’m ready to go. -- Trail Blazers big man Zach Collins 

Due to the COVID-19/NBA protocols, Collins and the rest of the Blazers have only been able to do individual workouts and thus Collins hasn’t gone through a full-contact workout yet. But, he has tested his shoulder in the weight room and with flexibility tests.

[RELATED]: Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins are back and the Trail Blazers are PUMPED

During his individual workouts, Collins says he has been getting up a lot of shots and working on his conditioning.

“Once we get to Orlando, hopefully we’ll hit the ground running and be as close to game shape as possible,” Collins added.

The 22 teams will travel to Orlando from July 7-9. Once teams are quarantined in the Walt Disney World bubble they will begin team practices during a three-week training camp. 

[RELATED]: Trail Blazers return to play schedule in Orlando released

Wednesday, Blazers coach Terry Stotts mentioned that Jusuf Nurkic is in the best shape that he’s seen from him over the past few years.  

“I think physically, it’s the best I’ve seen [Nurkic] look,” Stotts said. “He has good muscle tone, he doesn’t look thin, he looks strong. I don’t know what his body-fat [percentage] is, but honestly, from a physical standpoint, it’s the best I’ve seen him.”

And if he does say so himself, Collins is feeling good about his body right now too.

I'm sitting between 245 and 250 pretty consistently every day. And that's, that's about where I was when I got injured. I was probably a little heavier when I got injured. I wasn't exactly in the best game shape yet, but I was probably the same. And now I'm sitting at 245 to 250. I feel a lot stronger everywhere... I definitely don't feel light or skinny or anything. I feel good. – Zach Collins

Heading into this season, with the Trail Blazers planning on starting Collins at power forward, he was all-in on that plan.

And now with Trevor Ariza opting out of going to Orlando, the expectation is Carmelo Anthony will move over to the starting small forward role.

That leaves the four spot open for Collins.

“If I do play a lot at the four, it’s going to be a lot more perimeter orientated,” Collins said last summer. “I never really want to get away too much from being inside and being effective inside. But, if I can find playing time at the four, then I’m all for it, and I’m going in and I’m going to attack that and try to be the best four I can be. If I’m the five, same thing.”

Let the big summer of Big Z begin. 

Only thing more effective than Trail Blazers offense is their opponents' offense

Only thing more effective than Trail Blazers offense is their opponents' offense

The Trail Blazers have played some very good offense during their eight seeding games in Orlando.

Portland has shot 47.8 percent from the field over an eight-game stretch and that includes a terrific 41.4 percent from three-point range.

But to survive, the Blazers have had to shoot that well because the only thing more spectacular than their offense has been the offense of their opponents.

In the last eight games, the teams playing Portland have made 49.4 percent of their shots, including 43.3 percent of their threes.

Their defense has been worse than their offense has been good.

And how would the Trail Blazers realistically expect to advance in the playoffs while playing defense that is that ineffective?

It would be impossible.

Portland should be able to get past Memphis in the play-in series -- which is heavily weighted toward the Trail Blazers, who need to win one game before the Grizzlies beat them twice. But with that defense, nothing can be taken for granted. This has to somehow improve.

Portland has played two respectable defensive games in the bubble and one of them was against Memphis in the opener, a game the Trail Blazers spent several days preparing for.

The other good defensive effort was vs. Houston, which Portland has had good success defending in three straight games this season.

The common thread in those games is preparation -- and being able to gear a defensive game plan around stopping one player, Ja Morant for Memphis and James Harden for the Rockets,

I liked the Trail Blazer approach vs. Harden all season. Portland mixed up the defenders on him and mixed the nature of the defense, too, The Trail Blazers tried to deny Harden the ball, were aggressive on the ball when he had it, got him to give it up with double-teams and traps and played some zone defense.

I believe that sort of defensive approach gives Portland its best chance of winning, because it puts the Blazer defenders into an aggressive, attacking mode. Change the pick-and-roll coverages during games, double-team hot shooters or overplay them once in a while, mix in an aggressive zone -- anything that makes an offense hesitate or deliberate before it attacks.

Yes, they will give up some open threes playing that way. But they give up open threes in bunches all the time with their usual defense.

Things must change at the defensive end, like it or not. What's going on now isn't working. As much as anything, they have been lucky down this stretch of games that opponents have missed open shots and Damian Lillard, a basketball Superman in the bubble, has made difficult, often contested, shots.

In the Brooklyn game Thursday night, the Nets could have ended Portland’s season with a clear jumper from 22 feet, which missed.

But praying teams will miss open shots is no way to play defense. And no way to win playoff games.

Jusuf Nurkic emotional in win over Nets, finds some closure from leg injury

Jusuf Nurkic emotional in win over Nets, finds some closure from leg injury

The Trail Blazers 2019-20 season was on the line Thursday night.

And it all came down to the final shot.

Fortunately for Portland, Brooklyn’s Caris LeVert, who had already scored 37 points on 16-for-29 shooting, dribbled the clock down in the fourth quarter with the Nets trailing by one, but his jumper clanked off the back of the rim. Carmelo Anthony secured the rebound. 

And with that the Blazers won 134-133.  

That was a crazy finish, to say the least.

But before Portland’s season literally hung in the air in Orlando -- there were bodies flying.

To say the Trail Blazers left it all out on the floor seems like an understatement.

Portland’s dynamic duo of Damian Lillard and Jusuf Nurkic rose to the occasion; or dove to the occasion, in this case.  

[RELATED]: Trail Blazers clinch 8-seed, advance to play-in games vs. Memphis Grizzlies 

It was obvious watching their effort in the fourth quarter, that they were not ready to go home.

The Trail Blazers were a big fan of Nurkic sacrificing his body in crunch time, just as Nurkic is a “big fan” of being in Orlando.

His postgame hashtag confirmed it. 

There were two specific plays that Blazers head coach Terry Stotts pointed to as key possessions for his team Thursday. And one of them was Nurkic sprawling out on the floor, with 1:28 to go in the game, to save the ball from spinning out of bounds on the baseline after a bad pass by Joe Harris down low.

That extra effort was on display in the Blazers’ locker room postgame. 

The two things we showed in the locker room after the game was Nurk diving on the floor under two minutes, Dame diving on the floor and those are the things that we have to do to win games… and those two plays made the difference. -- Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts

Nurkic at 7’0” and 290 pounds plummeted to the floor to give the Blazers an extra possession and to prove once again that he wants to continue to play the game he loves – the game that was taken away from him following his gruesome leg injury in March of 2019 against who else, but the Brooklyn Nets.

Facing the team that ran away from Nurkic once they witnessed the status of his broken left leg in the game on Mar. 25, 2019, meant Thursday’s win wasn’t just a relief to move on and secure a play-in spot, it also took its toll on Nurk’s psyche.    

This game might be a little bit emotional for me because I got hurt against them at Moda. But, like I said... LaVert is a great player, had a great game. I think we get the best of him tonight. Give them credit, what they did, what they tried to did. But, I think we did a hell of a job to win the game… Obviously, we couldn’t get rebounds [in the] last couple of possessions, but, like I said – it wasn’t meant to be for them. We got a win, that’s all that matters. -- Trail Blazers big man Jusuf Nurkic

It closed the loop.

Nurkic also described the play of him diving on the ground for the steal from Harris, saying, “whatever it takes,” which has also been Damian Lillard’s motto through all eight of these seeding games.

[RELATED]: Unstoppable Damian Lillard provokes NSFW reaction from Nets Joe Harris 

It was with 1:12 remaining in the game when Lillard sacrificed his body, hitting the deck and snatching the ball from LeVert which led to the go-ahead 21-foot pull-up jumper from CJ McCollum to put the Blazers up 134-130.

[Listen to the Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon and special guest Kevin Love].

The bottom line is, the Blazers came up with stops when they absolutely needed them Thursday night. 

Portland’s defense has been suspect in the NBA restart; however, the Blazers’ team captain explained how coming up with timely stops meant easier buckets down the stretch.

“Once we got those stops, we was able to get to the rim, get fouled, get a few easier looks and then get ourselves back into the game, and then I think once we cut it to like, four, and we settled in, we got a stop and they were being aggressive and I just, I felt the guy chasing me over the screen and I just rose up and we got the three free throws… Once we got to that point, I was like – now it’s just a matter of who is gonna make the big plays down the stretch, who is going to do just a little bit more, and who wants it more, we was able to do that,” Lillard said.

Lillard once again led the charge Thursday night. He made 13-of-22 shots, including 8-of-14 from deep, to finish with 42 points. He also dished out 12 assists.

As for Nurkic, he finished with 22 points on 11-of-17 shooting to go along with 10 rebounds and three rebounds in 33 minutes of action.

Heading into the final seeding game, Nurkic was averaging 17.0 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 41 assists in 31.4 minutes of work.

That's a lot of minutes for a big fella just returning from a big injury. 

Nurkic mentioned after the win that he has been surprised at how good his conditioning has been in the seeding games after not having played in a game for more than 14 months.

“My shape – I was surprised by the way I was playing. My shape is surprisingly good enough to play those minutes,” Nurkic said.

Now as the No. 8 seeded Blazers prepare for Saturday's play-in game against No. 9 seed Memphis Grizzlies, the Blazers are making sure to get in some recovery time. 

“Trying get a cold tub right now," Nurkic joked. "Have ice all over me. Try to get rest as I can, that’s all I can do, right?” 

Yep, bring on the ice and then... Bring on, the Grizzlies.

Trail Blazers chaotic, magical run follows a familiar gut wrenching script

Trail Blazers chaotic, magical run follows a familiar gut wrenching script

This is starting to get eerily familiar.

The Trail Blazers won a game that came down to the wire on Thursday night. It followed a script Portland fans are all too used to seeing.

Damian Lillard continued an historic run, the Blazers defense continued to let opponents score at will, and when the buzzer sounded Portland had punched its ticket to the weekend’s play-in round. 

“When you come into the bubble, it’s March Madness now,” Blazers big man Jusuf Nurkic said.

Madness might be the best word for it. The Blazers have played three straight nearly identical games to get to this point. It doesn’t seem to matter who the opponent is, they are nearly certain to light up the scoreboard against this Portland team. Whether it was Sunday with Josh Richardson and Alec Burks leading a shorthanded Philadelphia team or Tuesday with Kristaps Prozingis and Luka Doncic steering the league’s best offense, or Thursday against a spackled together Brooklyn Nets, anyone facing the Blazers is going to get buckets.

[RELATED: Why the Blazers will look back & “appreciate the grind” of seeding games]

And anyone trying to stop the Blazers on the other end is going to have to deal with Lillard who is in the midst of a magical run, a perfect confluence of determination and otherworldly shooting. The Blazers point guard had 51 against Philadelphia on Sunday and followed that with 61 against Dallas before torching Brooklyn on Thursday. He finished with 42 points on 13-for-22 shooting to go along with 12 assists and just one turnover in 44 sterling minutes against the Nets.

These games have all been frantic and seem to end with Lillard rescuing the Blazers in a simultaneously unbelievable but inevitable fashion. After the game the Blazers looked gassed. Lillard put his hands on his knees in exhaustion, CJ McCollum could barely catch his breath for his postgame interview and when Nurkic met with the media his 7-foot frame was draped with ice. But beyond the obvious physical rigors of playing two weeks full of must-win games that all seemed to come down to crunch time, there has to be a mental toll exacted from this Blazers run.

But like a pull-up three from a step inside halfcourt, Lillard isn’t too worried.

“I think mentally I’ll be fine,” Lillard said when asked to think ahead to a possible playoff series beginning Tuesday. “I think physically there’s going to be some fatigue there, but I think it won’t be as hard as you might think because there’s a lot riding on these games. It’s almost like every game that we’ve been playing the last three, four games has been like our season is on the line. So once you get to the playoffs obviously the urgency or the care is going to be there but you’re not going into it like ‘Alright if we lose this Game 1 we’re going home.’ So I think it will be a little better.”

[RELATED: Everything you need to know about Trail Blazers play-in game(s) vs. Memphis Grizzlies]

Portland’s reward for making this far is likely more of what we’ve seen from them over the last two weeks. They get a chance to officially make the playoffs in the play-in round against Memphis over the weekend, needing one win in two possible games against the Grizzlies to earn the eighth seed.

So much has changed since these two teams met to open the Orlando restart schedule two weeks ago. But expecting anything to be truly different would be denying what you have seen from the Blazers in Disney World.

You already know the script. Lillard will be awesome. The Blazers defense won’t. And the game  -- or games -- will come down to the wire. If you try hard enough, perhaps you’ll find comfort in the Blazers’ predictable brand of chaos. We’ve seen this one before.

Why the Blazers will look back & “appreciate the grind” of seeding games

Why the Blazers will look back & “appreciate the grind” of seeding games

All Damian Lillard wanted was a shot. 

Not his ‘layup’ from the logo, but rather a shot at the playoffs.

The Trail Blazers point guard said on his birthday, which happened after the Blazers arrival in the bubble, "Let's not waste our f-ing time." 

The NBA restart gave the Portland Trail Blazers eight games to force a play-in for that final spot in the Western Conference playoffs and the Blazers have done just that.

They haven't wasted their time in the bubble.

And after another heart attack finish Thursday night, Rip City is trying to wrap its head around what’s with all these close games? The Blazers have managed to pull out wins and each of the eight games were decided by single digits.

[Listen to the Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon and special guest Kevin Love].

As much as it is stressful to watch back home, it’s equally as nailbiting on the court in Orlando.

‘Big Z’ Zach Collins joined our Blazers Outsiders crew of Joe Simons and Danny Marang after Portland’s one-point victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday, explaining that these close games will only benefit Portland in the long run.

Frustrating, stressful, annoying, all those things but we put ourselves in a position to win every game here and that’s the thing you got to take away. Every game, we were winning and had to hold onto a lead and there were a lot of games where we weren’t winning and had to fight back into it. You can look at that as a negative or you can look at that’s getting us ready for what playoffs are going to be. 

I think when we get this next win and when we get to the playoffs, I think we’re going to look back and appreciate the grind that these eight games were. — Zach Collins

It has been a grind indeed. Nothing has come easy for the Trail Blazers during this restart. Portland has had to claw its way through third quarter slump after third quarter slump; CJ McCollum is battling through a fracture in his back; Dame is averaging nearly 40 minutes per game; it is exhausting. 

Lillard said it clearly after the game on Thursday: ‘I’m tired.”

But the benefit to games like these are they feel a lot like playoff games and playoff games are often played down to the wire. Should the Trail Blazers win on Saturday and advance to the playoffs, they have that added experience of winning in tight games. 

We’re obviously just very happy that the eight games are behind us and now we just got to win one more to get there. — Zach Collins 

[RELATED]: Everything you need to know about Trail Blazers play-in game(s) vs. Memphis Grizzlies

Game 1: Saturday, August 15 at 11:30 a.m. PT
Game 2 (if necessary): Sunday, August 16 at 1:30 p.m. PT

The winner of the play-in gets the reward, if it can be called that, of playing the No.1 Los Angeles Lakers. 

Trail Blazers' season came down to one shot and, lucky for them, it missed

Trail Blazers' season came down to one shot and, lucky for them, it missed

All the games prior to the break, all the weeks of the hiatus, all the scrimmages and then the games in the NBA bubble -- and the Trail Blazers’ season Thursday night came down to just one shot.

And this time it wasn’t even a shot by a Portland player.

Brooklyn’s Caris Levert, who had already scored 37 points on 16-for-29 shooting, played the clock down in the fourth quarter with his Nets trailing by a single point.

He was closely guarded by CJ McCollum but got some space with a step-back move and lofted an arching jump shot from near the top of the key as the game clock neared :00.

The city of Portland held its breath.

If the ball goes in, the Trail Blazers’ season is over. Finished. Done. If it misses, the team moves on to a play-in series against Memphis, in which the Grizzlies must defeat the Trail Blazers twice before Portland wins once. One win from a playoff berth.

“I was tired,” Damian Lillard said. “I had played the whole second half. I was just like, ‘Please miss. Please get the rebound and let’s end this game.’”

It did miss. And when Carmelo Anthony grabbed the rebound and hugged it, the game was over, a 134-133 win.

Asked what that moment felt like, Coach Terry Stotts played the levity card.

“Trust in our defense,” Stotts said. And when that was met with deserved silence, he pulled his COVID-19 mask down, revealing a big smile and added, “I’m smiling.

“Honestly, we played good defense down the stretch. We just couldn’t get a rebound. We forced them into some tough shots but that’s how it is. I’m glad we got the stop when we needed it.”

Jokes aside, the Trail Blazers’ defense didn’t make the trip to Florida with the team. Stotts’ team survived another tightrope walk to the finish line and ended the seeding portion of its schedule with a 6-2 record.

Of course, just like those other wins, Lillard played a starring role.

He made 13 of 22 shots, including 8-14 from three-point range, scored 42 points and handed out 12 assists. His three-point shooting was critical, since his teammates went a combined 5-25 from three on a night when a Brooklyn zone defense left guys not named Lillard wide open for threes, many of them even being the easier variety, from the corner.

The Nets’ plan was to take the ball out of Lillard’s hands as much as possible with traps and double-teams. And they were able to do that often.

But Lillard was still able to wear them out with his scoring and passing.

Brooklyn, meanwhile, was hitting at 55.2 percent overall and 42.4 percent from three. And if that wasn’t enough to do in Portland, the Nets worked the offensive boards to death in the fourth quarter.

Brooklyn got seven of its 14 offensive rebounds in the final period and turned them into seven points.

Portland got a big game from CJ McCollum alongside Lillard. McCollum, dealing with a broken bone in his back, scored 25 points and had seven assists.

Jusuf Nurkic, fighting off foul trouble, finished with 22 points and 10 rebounds and Hassan Whiteside was solid off the bench with 16 points, nine rebounds and two blocks.

But still, this was a Damian Lillard game.

Again.

And just one more team -- the Grizzlies -- stands in the way of a Portland playoff appearance. And perhaps one more tightrope walk to the end of a game.

Kevin Durant posts cryptic photo after Blazers dramatic win over Nets

Kevin Durant posts cryptic photo after Blazers dramatic win over Nets

Now, that was stressful!

Deep exhale.

The Portland Trail Blazers clinched the eight-seed and have advanced to the play-in game for the right to the final spot in the Western Conference playoffs against the Memphis Grizzlies beginning Saturday.

The win over Brooklyn didn’t come easy. Portland carried on its struggles in the third quarter and the Nets shot 55.2% from the field, but Portland prevailed through grit and hustle down the stretch and on the back of one Damian Lillard.

Dame, Jusuf Nurkic and CJ McCollum combined for 89 points while Hassan Whiteside and Gary Trent Jr. each had 16 off the bench. 

[Listen to the Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon and special guest Kevin Love].

Social media was buzzing after the game from players and fans alike, but one reaction stood out and it came from injured Brooklyn Nets superstar Kevin Durant. 

No words, no context.

Just a photo of KD hanging on the rim in a dark gym... smiling. 

Creepily. 

WHY, KEVIN?! WHY!!!???

The photo is from Drake's "Laugh Now Cry Later" music video in which KD appeared playing 1-on-1 against Drake, dunking on him multiple times. 

Here are some initial theories: 

  • Injury update (weird timing)
  • KD is throwing shade at the Lakers, whom the Blazers would play if they beat the Memphis Grizzlies in either of this weekend's play-in games
  • KD is somehow involving the Blazers for not drafting him in 2007 (that's not it) 
  • A play on "Laugh Now Cry Later" and how the Blazers may have won now, but will have to face the No. 1 Lakers if they advance past the play-in games
  • KD just saved a ton of money on his car insurance by switching to Geico

Of course, we'll never truly know what is going through Durant's head, so one of the above answers can/should be considered. 

Here’s how the rest of social media reacted to the Blazers grinding out the win:

Would it be a game if Logo Lillard didn’t make an appearance? Well, this one was deeeeeeeeep.

Dame's backcourt companion CJ McCollum, who is playing with a fractured back, showed up big and punished the Nets' defense when the double teams were sent on Dame, including this big shot in the fourth:

The Trail Blazers now move on to the play-in game(s) vs. Memphis beginning on Saturday. 

Play-in games schedule:
Game 1: Saturday, August 15 at 11:30 a.m. PT
Game 2 (if necessary): Sunday, August 16 at 1:30 p.m. PT

Unstoppable Damian Lillard provokes NSFW reaction from Nets Joe Harris

Unstoppable Damian Lillard provokes NSFW reaction from Nets Joe Harris

Damian Lillard is super human. 

The man is on another level. He's playing out of his mind. 

The superlatives can't even size up what the Trail Blazers point guard is doing on the basketball court. 

Since entering the bubble, Lillard has averaged 37.5 points, including tying a career-high 61 points vs. Dallas. 

In what was 'the biggest game of our lives,' as Damian Lillard noted going into Thursday night's contest vs. the Brooklyn Nets, Dame put it ALL on the line. 

And he was firing on all cylinders, from every part of the court. 

WATCH

But, it was in the third quarter when Lillard, who was well defended by Joe Harris, rose up and hit a crazy three pointer, prompting a NSFW reaction. 

WATCH

Sometimes the only words to describe Damian Lillard is to just give him credit and swear loudly, which is what Harris did in this instance. 

Not having fans in attendance has surely allowed for more player reactions, and this one is what all NBA players, as Lamar Hurd eluded to on the TV broadcast, are thinking. 

The Trail Blazers now move on to the play-in game(s) vs. Memphis beginning on Saturday. 

Play-in games schedule:
Game 1: Saturday, August 15 at 11:30 a.m. PT
Game 2 (if necessary): Sunday, August 16 at 1:30 p.m. PT

RELATED-- Instant Analysis: Trail Blazers clinch 8-seed in shocking fashion

RELATED-- Everything you need to know about Trail Blazers play-in game(s) vs. Memphis Grizzlies

Instant Analysis: Trail Blazers clinch 8-seed in shocking fashion

Instant Analysis: Trail Blazers clinch 8-seed in shocking fashion

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.   

FINAL BOX SCORE: TRAIL BLAZERS 134, NETS 133

Here are three quick takeaways from Portland's eighth and final seeding game from our NBC Sports NW team:

Dwight Jaynes, Insider:   

 

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!

Trail Blazers clinch 8-seed, advance to play-in games vs. Memphis Grizzlies

Trail Blazers clinch 8-seed, advance to play-in games vs. Memphis Grizzlies

Blazers playing on in the play-in! 

And, that was a close one.

But where there’s a Damian Lillard, there’s a way!

Now that the Trail Blazers beat the Brooklyn Nets, 134-133, Thursday night, Portland is now the No. 8-seed and will face the No. 9-seed Grizzlies in the first play-in game Saturday at 11:30a.m. PT.

Being the eight seed means Portland will need to win just one of the play-in games to advance to the playoffs.

[RELATED-- Instant Analysis: Trail Blazers clinch 8-seed in shocking fashion]

[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts Channing Frye and Dan Sheldon!]

In Thursday’s victory, Lillard finished with 42 points and 12 assists despite the Nets throwing two defenders at him a majority of the game.

If the Blazers had lost Thursday’s game, they would be heading home and the season would be over.

But now Portland’s sights are set on beating the Grizzlies Saturday to secure their playoff spot.

The Western Conference First Round playoffs will begin Tuesday evening against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Be sure to check back throughout the rest of the night and tomorrow morning for analysis, articles, and videos from the players.

Check back for more updates from postgame!