The Portland Trail Blazers took the deciding game last night with 134-133 win over the Brooklyn Nets to secure the 8th seed and their spot in the play-in round. They are to meet the Memphis Grizzlies who finished as the 9th seed in the Western Conference edging out the Phoenix Suns due to their 3-1 winning record in head-to-head matchups.
The Memphis Grizzlies beat the Giannis-less Bucks by a whopping 16 points on the backs of triple doubles by Jonas Valanciunas and Ja Morant to clinch the 9th seed. Antetokounmpo was suspended for this final regular-season game of the bubble because of his head-butt on Moe Wagner of the Washington Wizards in the precious game.
Valanciunas had a stat line of 26-19-12 while Ja put up 12-13-10.
It is possible that Mike Budenholzer, head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks, helped out his former assistant coach, Taylor Jenkins who is the head coach of the Memphis Grizzlies. Jenkins served under Budenholzer for many years which included stints with the Atlanta Hawks as well as the Bucks, and they developed a close relationship in that time.
Mike playing his stars Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe for only 20 minutes, may have been an act of good-will as it was a must-win game for Jenkins and the Grizzlies, and it is possible that he wanted to help a friend out.
The Phoenix Suns had gone 8-0 in the bubble, becoming the first team in NBA history to miss the playoffs after finishing the season on an 8-game winning streak. Devin Booker averaged over 30 points per game in the bubble to lead the Suns to a perfect record.
Damian Lillard put on a show in the bubble to lead the Trail Blazers to the 8th seed needing only one victory against the Grizzlies to gain the right to play the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the playoffs. He scored 51, 61, and 42 points in the final three games to push Portland over the top. He finished the season averaging 30.0 points per game which sets a new career-high.
This will be an interesting matchup with experienced superstar, Damian Lillard, and the young, rising star, Ja Morant, going head-to-head in one or two pressure-filled games. It is expected the Portland will pull this one out with not much difficulty as their experience gives them a big advantage over the young Grizzlies squad.
The play-in round will begin on Saturday August 15th @2:30pm EST. If Portland wins this game, Memphis will be eliminated and the Blazers will move on to playing the Lakers in the first round. If Memphis pulls out a victory in this game, both teams will face each other for one more, final game on Sunday August 16th @4:30pm EST. The winner of this final game game will move on to the first round.