LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – With the season threatening to slip away, Damian Lillard decided it was time to shoot, even though he was so far his foot was touching the logo near midcourt.
A few minutes later, he flung his body to the floor near the same spot, coming up with a steal that was the biggest defensive play of the game.
Lillard did it all to give Portland a spot in the NBA's first play-in series, scoring 42 points to help the Trail Blazers escape with a 134-133 victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday night.
“The urgency, the energy, the pace, everything, just felt like something was on the line,” LIllard said.
The Trail Blazers secured the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference only after Brooklyn's Caris LeVert, who scored 37 points, missed a jumper just before time expired. Portland will play ninth-seeded Memphis on Saturday. If the Grizzlies win, the deciding game would be Sunday.
The winner of the play-in series gets the final spot in the West and a first-round series against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Portland came into the day in eighth place, but would have fallen out of playoff position with a loss, thanks to victories earlier Thursday by Memphis and Phoenix. Had the Blazers lost, the Suns would have inched ahead of them into ninth.
But Lillard wouldn't let the Blazers fall, following his games of 51 and 61 points in the previous two games not only with more sensational scoring but also with a huge defensive play.