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Nets stand in way of Blazers' chance to make playoffs

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Portland Trail Blazers v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

Keep the party rocking. Brooklyn kept the wins flowing with a W against the Orlando Magic on Tuesday afternoon. It was the Nets first win over the Magic this season after three losses and give them an unanticipated 5-2 record.

The opponent tonight will be the Portland Trailblazers. Their objective is quite simple: win and you're in. They helped the cause by surviving a shootout against the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday night. With this being the regular season finale, all hands are on deck.

Where to follow the game

YES Network and WFAN 101.9 FM for the locals. TNT for the rest of y'all. We're in primetime so tip off will be after 9.

Injuries

Jamal Crawford is out. Donta Hall is questionable with a right ankle sprain and Chris Chiozza is questionable with right abductor tightness. Kevin Durant's still out of course, but he's keeping busy Moreover, he’s offering his opinions, as he did on the debate over who is the best player ever...

Trevor Ariza and Caleb Swanigan opted out of the season while Rodney Hood is recovering from an Achilles tear. CJ McCollum has a fracture in his back, but all signs point to him playing. Playoffs make you push yourself in ways that are unimaginable.

The game

Before we get started, we wanted to send well wishes to former lead assistant Paul Westphal (under Lionel Hollins) as he battles brain cancer.

Tonight presents one of those situations we occasionally find ourselves in. On one side, you have a team with nothing to play for (Brooklyn) as their playoff matchup is set. On the other side, you have a team (Portland) fighting for their playoff lives. Will Jacque Vaughn sit his guys for most of the game? Nope. He’s said this is a tune-up for the playoffs which begin Monday, but I'm sure he and the Nets staff will monitor minutes and make sure everyone comes out of this one in good shape for the Toronto Raptors next week.

If you're like me, you haven't been able to kick your Twitter habit and thus spend WAY too much time scrolling timelines instead of doing things that are more productive and less stressful. During that time.scrolling, you've probably come across people calling fans, pundits, etc out for their seeming disrespect of Carmelo Anthony.

Prior to this run with the Blazers, Melo was coming off disastrous stints with Oklahoma City and Houston in which the discussion focused on his inability to play at a high level and seeming need to retire. To his credit, Anthony never gave up and found his way back into the league and onto a team where he can be a solid third-fourth option. The Blazers are a perfect fit for him and he might be able to squeeze out a few more seasons as well.

When Nets fans last saw Jusuf Nurkic in a game, he suffered a leg injury that kept him out of action for a year. He's back healthy and gives Terry Stotts a caoable scoring option in the post and an excellent passing big man that always finds his teammates in the right spots. He'll pose a tough challenge for Jareett Allen as he's out there tonight. Allen has been rock solid on the inside

The Blazers' defense has been terrible in the bubble, which bodes well for Joe Harris and Brooklyn's three point shooters. The Blazers are allowing teams to shoot 43.5 percent from deep and allowing 119.4 points per 100 possessions, both second worse in the league. Joe Harris, Tyler Johnson, and the other Nets are in line for huge games if the Blazers defense continues to struggle.

All that said, what do the Nets have to play for considering they’re set at the seventh seed in the East? Other than pride, the Nets can get to .500 Thursday night. A win would give them a 36-36 record.

Player to watch: Damian Lillard

I want you to take a trip with me back to the Winter of 2012. The New Jersey Nets had traded Mehmet Okur, Shawne Williams, and a top three protected pick to the Portland Trailblazers for Gerald Wallace. The move, which wasn't that criticized at the time, was designed to help the team's chances in retaining Deron Williams as he entered free agency that summer and the team moved from New Jersey to Brooklyn. Nets management reasoned that outside of three players (Anthony Davis. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and Thomas Robinson), there wasn't much to keep their eyes on and with D-Will's free agency looming, grooming a young player may not have been in the cards. That pick landed at No. 6, and well...

2019 Mtn Dew 3-Point Contest Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Yeah, life can be cruel that way.

Moving back into the present, Lillard has carried his team in ways few players can. In the bubble, he's averaging 37 points a night on a .485/.414/.887 shooting line while playing 41 minutes a night. When you're a franchise player, you're expecting to carry the team on your back, and Lillard has been more than ready to meet the task. The bubble games have been high stakes every step of the way, and after the Mavs win, Dame said the following:

"That’s the most important game of our lives. Tonight was great, we said we need one win. We gonna focus on one game, we got this one done and that’s the most important one. We got to finish it out right. We got to come out with the same mentality we had tonight, get the job done. We control our own destiny and we know what we got to do.”

With Portland's margin for error at zero and McCollum less than 100 percent, you can almost guarantee Lillard will be on the court for 40+ tonight. Win today, worry about tomorrow when it comes.

Caris LeVert will get one last tuneup before heading into the playoffs. Levert's been wonderful for Brooklyn and as he gets more reps running point, the more he develops as a playmaker and ballhandler. He put on a show last playoffs against the 76ers and now that he's in a great groove, is a good bet to be even better this time around.

Draft Watch

One other thing. If the Mavericks beat the Suns late Thursday afternoon, the Nets will pick at No. 18 in the NBA Draft on October 15. If the Mavs end the seeding games with a loss, the Nets will pick at No. 19. The Nets gave up their own pick in the June 2019 salary dump of Allen Crabbe, but then got a 2020 pick back on Draft Night last year when they traded the No. 27 pick to the Clippers for the 76ers’ first this year and the rights to Jaylen Hands. Not bad considering that the pick was No. 21 when the league shutdown in March.

From the Vault

Turn the lights all the way down

More reading: Blazers Edge