Good morning. Let’s basketball.
Bain à la Grenouillère, Claude Monet
Since missing those two free throws against the Clippers last weekend and getting taunted off the floor by Patrick Beverley and Paul George, Damian Lillard has:
Led the Portland Trail Blazers to two extremely narrow victories to give them control of their own play-in destiny
Scored 51 and 61 points in successive games
Shot 33/60 (55%) from the field
Hit 33/34 free throws
This might have actually been a bit of 4-D chess by the Clippers to spark an eruption of Mt. Dame just in time for him to go on a run to get Portland into the playoffs and face the Lakers. Sure, the Clippers won a game they were trying to lose in order to mf the Lakers. But maybe they ended up mf’ing the Lakers even better in the end by pulling this out of Lillard.
The Blazers have now taken the No. 8 seed, thanks to the Grizzlies’ skid and their own wins. If they beat the Nets on Thursday, Portland is the No. 8 seed. If they lose, they could be out of the play-in entirely if two of the Grizzlies, Suns and Spurs win on Thursday. But Portland should be able to beat the Nets.
The Grizzlies are now at risk of missing the play-in — they either have to win on Thursday vs. the Bucks or they need to rely on the Suns and Spurs both losing. The Grizzlies and Suns play the earliest games of the set on Thursday, so they won’t have the benefit of knowing where the Spurs and Blazers end up.
Phoenix can get to No. 8 with a win over the Mavericks and losses for both the Blazers and Grizzlies. But they are in a must-win situation and need at least one of Portland or Memphis to lose to get a spot in the play-in. 7-0 in the bubble and still don’t control their own destiny.
The Spurs, who face Utah, need to win and for two of the other teams to lose.
Back to Portland. Apparently, C.J. McCollum played the game with a fracture in his lower back. It should be noted AGAIN that the Blazers would not be in this position without the contributions of Carmelo Anthony, who had 26 points on 10-17 shooting and played really good defense on Luka Doncic on the Mavericks’ most critical possession.
(No, I don’t know about that offensive foul call either. Probably best to trust your shooter and not divert your path to screen off the defender right in front of two officials there, though.)
Regardless of whether Lillard’s fire would have burned this bright without the weekend flare-up with the Clippers, it sure seems like Portland is destined to make the playoffs. No other way to explain a shot like this.
Thanks be to providence, thanks be to trash talk. Whatever it may be. It’s Dame Time all the same.
Mystics 48, Lynx 68 — So apparently the answer to the question “how did the Mystics start 3-0 without Elena Delle Donne, Natasha Cloud and Tina Charles?” was “a hot start by a few players, smoke and mirrors.” More on their plight from Diamond Holton at Bullets Forever.
Liberty 78, Sparks 93 — Dwyane Wade on Candace Parker balancing playing really well in the WNBA bubble while analyzing NBA games for Turner and caring for her daughter.
Rockets 105, Spurs 123 — James Harden took a rest day in another edition of West Mid-Tier Teams Really Don’t Appear to Care What Seed They End Up With. Keldon Johnson had a career night for San Antonio to keep them alive.
Suns 130, Sixers 117 — What more is there to say about Bubble MVP Devin Booker and the ~7 and 0~ Phoenix Suns?
Pelicans Who Cares, Kings So What — Wow, after this fiery Luke Walton pep talk I’m ready to run through a giant sheet of butcher paper and slip and sprain my knee in the process.
Here’s the three-game WNBA schedule for the night. None of it is on NBA TV or ESPN. All times Eastern.
Wings vs. Sun, 7 p.m., CBS Sports Network
Mercury vs. Sky, 9 p.m.
Dream vs. Storm, 10 p.m., Twitter
Here’s the NBA schedule. Every game has playoff seeding stakes attached, but none of them affect the West play-in. All times Eastern.
Pacers vs. Rockets, 4 p.m., NBA TV
Raptors vs. Sixers, 6:30 p.m., ESPN
Heat vs. Thunder, 8 p.m.
Clippers vs. Nuggets, 9 p.m., ESPN
Stephen Curry is getting in the best shape of his life right now. ($, The Athletic)
Shams Charania of The Athletic reports Ime Udoka, Ty Lue, Jeff Van Gundy and … Jason Kidd (?!) are in the mix for the Nets’ head coaching job, along with Jacque Vaughn. ($) If Kidd gets re-hired in Brooklyn after what happened in his messy exit, truly anything is possible. By the way, while Vaughn has availed himself quite well in the bubble, the job isn’t coaching Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen and Joe Harris. It’s coaching Kyrie and KD.
LOL the Knicks hired John Calipari’s top assistant, Kenny Payne. Weird, I can’t think of any top NBA players who came from Kentucky …
I did not have mid-August in the “When Will Bulls Fans Begin to Turn on Arturas Karnisovas?” pool.
Be excellent to each other.