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The Trail Blazers play at Utah and Phoenix and then play host to Denver, as they try to stay out of play-in tournament.

LILLARDWhat's ahead: The Trail Blazers, 39-29 heading into Monday's game with Houston (they won to go to 40-29), will try to maintain their playoff position — either fifth or sixth in the NBA Western Conference, thus avoiding the play-in tournament — in a tough final three games. Portland plays at Utah at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday (ESPN), at Phoenix 7 p.m. Thursday (TNT) and at Moda Center against Denver on Sunday (time TBD). They haven't beaten those three teams this season.

What's behind: Portland continued its success after a 5-1 road trip.

The only loss came at Atlanta, 123-114 May 3, as the Hawks' Danilo Gallinari came off the bench for 28 points on 9-of-15 shooting (7-of-10 3-pointers) and Bogdan Bogdanovic had 25 points on 9-of-17 shooting (7-of-14 3-pointers). Damian Lillard had 33 points, hitting six 3-pointers.

Portland scored a season high in points in a 141-105 win at Cleveland, May 5. Lillard had 32 points, hitting six 3-pointers, and nine assists, and said after the game that ended the 5-1 road trip that "we're kind of having a breakthrough moment. We had our downs. We stuck with it. We just made our way back around."

The Trail Blazers played the Los Angeles Lakers without LeBron James and others on May 7, and won 106-101, earning the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Lakers (as well as Dallas). They also played before fans for the first time this season at Moda Center.

Lillard had 38 points in a great superstar duel with Anthony Davis, who had 36 points and 12 rebounds. The Blazers held L.A. to .416 shooting (11 of 30 3-pointers, .367).

"There was some urgency to the game by both teams," coach Terry Stotts said.

The next night, May 8, the Blazers pulled away and beat San Antonio 124-102. They led by as many as 26 points. Lillard scored 30 points and CJ McCollum 27, and defense held the Spurs to .398 shooting (8 of 30 3-pointers, .267).

Surging Blazers: In beating the Lakers, Portland won its fourth game in five games against a team above .500 at the time of the game, after losing 11 consecutive games against above .500 teams. The three remaining opponents are well above .500 and ahead of the Blazers in the standings.

Moving up: Carmelo Anthony moved into 10th in NBA all-time scoring against Atlanta, passing Elvin Hayes.

"A couple years ago I ain't think I was gonna be in this moment. I was out of the league for whatever reason," Anthony said. "I'm back. I persevered. I stayed strong and true to myself and now I'm here in the top 10 (scoring)."

Quotable: "I think it's pretty easy to stay motivated when you look at the standings," Stotts said. "We have work to do to stay out of the play-in tournament. That's motivation enough. And, you want to be playing good ball going into the playoffs."


Jason Vondersmith
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