The Portland Trail Blazers rallied to beat the Memphis Grizzlies in the Western Conference play-in game Saturday in Orlando.
The Blazers tabbed the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference and arranged a best-of-seven playoff series against No. 1 seed Los Angeles Lakers starting Tuesday at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando.
Damian Lillard scored 31 points to lead the Trailblazers to a 126-122 win over the Grizzlies.
Portland led at the end of the first quarter 31-19. But the Grizzlies ramped up the pace and scored 33 points in the second quarter to narrow the gap 58-52.
The Grizzlies outscored Portland in the third 42-31 to take a 94-89 led.
Memphis was on top most of the fourth quarter until C.J. McCollum made a three-pointer to tie the game 111-111 with 3:08 remaining.
A layup by Jusuf Nurkic put Portland ahead 113-111. At this point, Memphis began to fade away.
Carmelo Anthony made a three-pointer from an assist by Damian Lillard and the Blazers were up by six 122-116. Dillon Brooks countered with a triple to narrow the gap 122-119, with 16.1 seconds remaining.
Gary Trent Jr. of Portland was fouled and halved his free throws to make it 123-119. Anthony then made two free throws to make it a six-point lead.
A Ja Morant triple cut the lead to three with 2.1 seconds left. Nurkic was fouled, got two free throws, made the first, and missed the second to ice the game.
McCollum added 29 points, Nurkic had 22, and Anthony chipped in 21 for Portland.
Morant had 35 points, Jonas Valanciunas had 22, and Brooks had 20 for Memphis, who was the No. 8 seed at the beginning of the restart but lost six of eight games to drop to the play-in series.
Morant, the 2019 NBA draft second overall pick, later revealed that he played their last four games with a fractured thumb. He described his game against the Blazers as “warrior” on Twitter.
He was also named to the All-Seeding Games first team along with Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns, T.J. Warren of the Indiana Pacers, Luka Doncic of the Dallas Mavericks and James Harden of the Houston Rockets.
On the second team were Giannis Antetoukonmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks, Kawhi Leonard of the Los Angeles Clippers, Caris Levert of the Brooklyn Nets, Michael Porter Jr. of the Denver Nuggets and Kristaps Porzingis of Dallas.
Named Coach of the Seeding Games was Monty Williams of the Suns, the only unbeaten team in the seeding games.
The NBA’s coaching carousel continues.
The New Orleans Pelicans have fired coach Alvin Gentry after the team missed the playoffs.
David Griffin, Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations, thanked Gentry for his commitment to the team and the community.
“The City of New Orleans is richer because of his presence here. These types of moves are often about fit and timing, and we believe now is the right time to make this change and bring in a new voice.”
The Pelicans were 2-6 in the bubble and finished 14th in the Western Conference. They had a shot at the playoffs and were only 3 1/2 games behind the No. 8 seed Memphis Grizzlies when the season restarted.
Gentry had a 175-225 record for the Pelicans in five seasons.
The Chicago Bulls had earlier fired coach Jim Boylen.
Playoffs frame set
The matchups in the NBA playoffs have been set.
In the Western Conference, the Lakers (1) go up against the Blazers (8); Houston Rockets (4)-Oklahoma City Thunder (5); Nuggets (3)-Utah Jazz (6); and Clippers (2)-Mavericks (7).
In the Eastern Conference, its Bucks (1)-Orlando Magic (8); Pacers (4)-Miami Heat (5); Boston Celtics (3)-Philadephia 76ers (6); and Toronto Raptors (2)-Brooklyn Nets(7).
Stojakovic resigns as Kings assistant GM
Peja Stojakovic followed fellow Sacramento Kings’ great Vlade Divac out the door when he resigned as assistant general manager.
Divac had earlier resigned as GM after the Kings failed to advance to the post-season for the 14th straight season.
Stojakovic had worked in the Kings’ front office since 2015. He was assistant GM for the past two years.
Joe Dumars, a Detroit Pistons legend, was named acting GM.
USFDA approves saliva-based test for COVID-19
The United States Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of a saliva-based test for COVID-19 that was developed by Yale University and jointly funded by the NBA and NBA Players Assocation.
SalivaDirect is expected to significantly increase the availability, turnaround time, and affordability of combating COVID-19 in the United States.
Yale University validated the SalivaDirect by testing select players, coaches, and staff from NBA teams that participated in a study of its efficacy. (Compiled by Tristan Lozano)