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Portland Rolls Over the Lakers, Memphis Seeks Win Against Minnesota in Playoff Run

With their minds on the playoffs, the Portland Trail Blazers (49-27) rolled on to another win on Tuesday, defeating the Los Angeles Lakers (25-49), 124-112.

Portland has now won four straight games and thanks to the Houston (49-24) loss vs. Brooklyn (40-33), also on Tuesday, they now sit 1 1/2 games behind the Rockets for the Western Conference’s fourth spot and a chance to get a home-court advantage for Round 1 of the playoffs.

The Blazers, who have six games remaining (five on the home court), need one win to grab a 50-win season. It would be the 12th time to do so over its 44-year franchise history but this doesn’t necessary spell out success for the postseason. In its four previous times hitting the 50-win mark and going to the playoffs, they didn’t see past the first round.

Damian Lillard

Damian Lillard

So what’s the difference for this year? The play on Tuesday by Damian Lillard (34 points with 8 assists) and LaMarcus Aldridge (31 points, 15 rebounds with 6 assists) certainly helps. Nicolas Batam contributed 16 points (five rebounds and seven assists), while Robin Lopez, celebrating his 26th birthday, added 10 points with 10 rebounds.

Lillard said of the game via the Associated Press, “We had a rough stretch, but now we’ve kind of picked it back up and we’re going in the right direction at the perfect time. Now that we’re close to the postseason, we want to have that rhythm going into the playoffs — because that’s what we play the regular season for.”

As for the Lakers, their story is a completely different one. Their one bright spot on Tuesday was Nick Young, who came off the bench and hit eight of his first shots; he ended the night with 40 points (15 of 26 shooting with 3 3-pointers) for a season high. With his number of points, it represented the greatest number for a player to come off the bench and score for NBA this season. This surpassed Los Angeles Clippers Jamal Crawford’s 37 points against the Toronto Raptors on Jan.25.

But this great play wasn’t enough to lift the Lakers’ dismal defense. They have now lost their last 10 of 14 games and with their 25-49 record, it represents the most for the franchise since the 1993-94 season where they ended at 33-49.

The Lakers can’t wait for this season to end and on Wednesday, they’ll get one game closer when they play the Sacramento Kings (26-48).

Portland will get two days off and then play the Phoenix Suns (44-30) on Friday. The Trail Blazers sit at 40/1 to win the 2014 NBA Championship and 20/1 to win the Western Conference.

In other Northwest Division action, the Minnesota Timberwolves (36-37) will host the Memphis Grizzlies (44-30) on Wednesday.

The Grizzlies are still in the playoff hunt, seeking a fourth consecutive year to land a berth, and with a Wednesday win, it would officially kick Minnesota out of the playoffs for a 10th straight year.

Memphis will enter the game with the Dallas Mavericks and Phoenix all within a half-game of one another for the the Western Conference’s last two playoff spots. After landing in the conference finals last year, the Grizzlies are again hungry for a postseason opportunity.

As for Minnesota, they’re in a 2-5 slump and another loss of Wednesday will leave this team out of the postseason race. Rewind a month ago and they were five games out of a coveted spot after winning six of seven games.

Kevin Love

Kevin Love

Kevin Love has contributed to the team’s woes with a fall to a 17.2-point average over the five previous games–off almost nine points below his season average. He recently said, “It’s definitely tough right now. We’ve got to try to finish this thing strong and just try to play well. … We’re a little beat up right now, but we still have to come and play and try to give it our best.”

Minnesota isn’t playing for much and on Wednesday, Memphis gets the win (-4.5, 199 o/u).

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