Blazers Beat: Portland surges, eyes fifth place in West
What's ahead: The surging Trail Blazers, who tied the Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas for fifth place in the NBA Western Conference at 36-28 entering Monday, May 3, played at Atlanta on Monday (update: they lost, falling to 36-29) and then conclude their six-game road trip at Cleveland at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Then it's three games at Moda Center: Lakers, 7 p.m. Friday; San Antonio, 7 p.m. Saturday; Houston, 7 p.m. Monday, May 10.
What's behind: Suffering through a five-game losing streak and 11 consecutive losses to teams above .500 when they played them, the Trail Blazers put a screeching halt to the two streaks on the road. (Thanks, in part, to three teams playing without key starters).
Indiana played without Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner, and Portland shelled the Pacers 133-112 April 27. Anfernee Simons hit his first nine 3-pointers, setting a Portland record and coming up short of the NBA record of 10 by Klay Thompson and Ty Lawson. He scored 27 points.
Simons' 13 consecutive 3-pointers made over three games tied for the longest streak of makes in NBA history.
Memphis had beaten the Trail Blazers twice in Moda Center recently. The Blazers got some payback April 28 in Tennessee, winning 130-109.
The Blazers led by 28 points at halftime. They held Ja Morant to three points (on 1-of-6 shooting) in the first half; Morant combined to score 61 points in the games in Portland. CJ McCollum led a balanced scoring game with 26 points.
James Harden and Kevin Durant didn't play, but Kyrie Irving did as the Trail Blazers beat Eastern Conference power Brooklyn April 30, 128-109. (Earlier this season, the Blazers also beat East power Philadelphia twice).
Damian Lillard had 32 points, nine assists and seven rebounds. He made eight 3-pointers. Jusuf Nurkic had another strong game with 23 points and 11 rebounds.
Then, playing solidly throughout and making plays at crunch time, Portland beat Boston 129-119 May 2. McCollum had 33 points, Lillard 26 points and 13 assists, Norman Powell 23 points and Jusuf Nurkic 14 points and 11 rebounds. The Blazers made defensive stops in the final 1:21, and ended the game on an 8-0 run. Boston played without point guard Kemba Walker.
What happened?: Lillard said the Blazers have been defending well and "I think our minds have been locked in. We've been sharp and together … and it's a whatever-it-takes mentality."
Quotable: "It's coming down to crunch time now, and we've got to go. We've got to pick ourselves up and we can't lie, we can't complain, we can't point fingers. We've got to go play ball," Carmelo Anthony said.
Three-guard lineup: Lillard, McCollum and Powell starting together has been working better lately.
"We're getting used to each other, understanding the spacing, figuring out what plays we can run. Norm's been here for a few weeks now, so being able to open up the playbook a little bit more," McCollum said.
Rare company: Lillard became the second-fastest player to reach 2,000 career 3-pointers, doing it in 671 games. Stephen Curry did it in 597 games.
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