The Los Angeles Lakers’ first-round playoff opponent could be determined in Saturday’s Portland Trail Blazers-Memphis Grizzlies Western Conference Play-In.
If Portland wins, it would advance to a first-round series against the Lakers that would begin Tuesday. If Memphis wins, the two teams will play again Sunday, with the winner advancing to face the Lakers.
The Grizzlies had a 3-1/2 game lead in the race for the eighth seed in the Western Conference entering the season restart, then went 2-6 in the seeding games, finishing a half-game behind the 35-39 Trail Blazers in the race for eighth.
Memphis needed a 119-106 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday in their final seeding game to edge out the Phoenix Suns on a tiebreaker to earn a spot in the play-in. The Grizzlies and Suns were both 34-39.
Portland was 6-2 in the seeding games, including a 140-135 overtime victory over Memphis on July 31. The Grizzlies were 111-104 winners over the Trail Blazers on Feb. 12 in Memphis in the other meeting between the teams in the 2019-20 season.
Portland guard Damian Lillard averaged 37.6 points and 9.6 assists in the seeding games, including 61- and 51-point performances as well as a 45-point, 12-assist game.
Memphis starting forward Jaren Jackson Jr. will miss the remainder of the season after tearing the meniscus in his left knee when he made an unstable landing after making contact with an opposing player while contesting a shot in the 109-99 loss the New Orleans Pelicans on Aug. 3 in the Grizzlies’ third seeding game.
Memphis was 2-3 in its final five seeding games without Jackson, who was their second-leading scorer, averaging 17.4 points per game.
As part of the plan to restart the season, the NBA decided that if the team with a conference’s eighth-best winning percentage was four or fewer games ahead of the team with the ninth-best winning percentage, the teams would play a play-in tournament to decide the eighth seed in the conference.
“Without a full 82-game season, we wanted to create an opportunity for the ninth seed to have an opportunity as long as it was within four games,” Tim Frank, the NBA’s senior vice president, league operations communications, told City News Service.
The entire NBA postseason will be played at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, without spectators due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Memphis-Portland game will be televised by ABC beginning at 11:30 a.m. PDT.
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