• A fifth straight trip to the playoffs was assured before tipoff. With the Memphis Grizzlies putting up a surprisingly strong fight yet again, though, the Portland Trail Blazers, eventually played like the postseason was on the line.

    The Blazers used an utterly dominant third quarter to beat the Grizzlies 113-98, exacting revenge for a loss at FedExForum last week and keeping pace for the third seed in the Western Conference. The Minnesota Timberwolves lost minutes into the first quarter of Sunday’s game, automatically granting Portland a berth in the postseason regardless of whether or not it defeated Memphis. The Blazers played like their fate had already been decided, too – at least for awhile.

    But Portland used halftime as a springboard, extending their five-point lead at intermission to 24 entering the final stanza by outscoring the Grizzlies 43-19 in a highlight-filled third quarter. Damian Lillard, who had a team-high 27 points and nine assists, and C.J. McCollum combined for 23 points in the third quarter alone, and got an expectant Moda Center crowd into a frenzy by throwing down three dunks between them during a game-deciding run.

    Meyers Leonard, who assisted McCollum with a tough lefty catch and bounce pass on the run for a slam, received extended minutes for the first time in weeks as the result of Ed Davis’ ankle sprain. He had six points, five rebounds and two assists in 19 minutes off the bench, showing off the activity and skill level that once made him a darling of Blazers obsessives. First-round pick Caleb Swanigan was impressive, too, scoring four points, grabbing four rebounds and dishing two slick assists in just nine minutes of play.

    Prior to tipoff, Davis told reporters he planned on returning from a sprained right ankle before the end of the regular season, against the Denver Nuggets or San Antonio Spurs. That’s an ideal scenario; Portland doesn’t need a key rotational cog like Davis being thrown to the fire in the thick of a first-round series. But if he or another big man needs relief in the postseason, Sunday’s game sure made it seem like Leonard, and perhaps even Swanigan, would be a solid emergency option.

    According to the Blazers, though, that’s thinking too far ahead. Another trip to the playoffs was much less than a formality as recently as three weeks ago, and in a loaded Western Conference, two of the league’s better teams will be on vacation April 14. Not Portland.

    “We still have some more goals to accomplish,” Stotts said after the game, “but it’s something to be proud of.”

    The Blazers have three games on the fourth-place San Antonio Spurs in the loss column, and four on the Oklahoma City Thunder with five games left on the schedule. The odds of retaining the three seed are certainly in their favor. But the next four of those remaining contests are on the road, and the final four against teams that have already qualified or are fighting tooth and nail for the playoffs – including a tilt in the Alamo City with the Spurs.

    Moe Harkless won’t be back until round one, and Davis’ timeline for recovery seems awfully optimistic. Portland made 12-of-38 3-point attempts against Memphis, 31.6 percent shooting that qualifies as progress given recent team-wide struggles from the beyond the arc. It’s been months, somehow, since Lillard and McCollum scraped their ceilings in the same game. Defensive engagement versus the Grizzlies came and went as the Blazers pleased, too, reminding of inconsistency on that end of the floor that plagued them more lately than anyone would like to admit.

    The next fives game won’t necessarily be easy, and could prove a harbinger of Portland’s chances of winning a first-round series regardless of home-court advantage. There’s much work left to be done, basically, and Lillard has big ambitions before setting his sights on a trophy.

    “We haven’t won a game against Houston this season,” Lillard told Kerry Eggers of The Portland Tribune after the game. “If we win, we can sweep Dallas. Each game has significance. I’m looking forward to all of them. If we get the job done, maybe [the starters] can get some rest to finish up [the regular season].”

    Just in time for a playoff appearance, and a potential playoff run, that’s finally been confirmed.

Fantasy News

  • Damian Lillard - G - Trail Blazers

    Damian Lillard had his best game this series in Monday's 117-119 Game 4 loss to the Warriors with 28 points and 12 assists to go with four rebounds and four 3-pointers.

    Lillard went 11-for-24 from the field and hit a signature logo 3-pointer, but in the end he couldn't convert on his layup or his 3-pointer in OT to keep the Blazers' season alive. He's been playing through a rib injury which explains why he's been a bit off on offense. Tonight he brought it all in an attempt to survive, but it just wasn't enough against the juggernaut Warriors.

  • CJ McCollum - G - Trail Blazers

    C.J. McCollum scored 26 points on 10-of-22 shooting with two rebounds, seven assists, a steal, two blocks and five 3-pointers in Monday's Game 4 against the Warriors.

    McCollum has been the Blazers' most consistent threat on offense in this series, but he was unable to convert on some tough shots late in OT to keep the Blazers' season alive. He's improved upon last postseason, but this year ended the same as the Blazers were swept.

  • Meyers Leonard - F/C - Trail Blazers

    Meyers Leonard had a career-high 30 points on 12-of-16 shooting with 12 rebounds, three assists, a steal, a block and five 3-pointers in Monday’s Game 4 loss to the Warriors.

    Leonard had 25 points in the first half thanks to his 5-for-6 shooting from deep and both of those numbers already set new career-highs. Thanks to his hot hand, the Warriors had to respect him out on the 3-point line which freed up space for Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum to operate on the perimeter.

  • Al-Farouq Aminu - F - Trail Blazers

    Al-Farouq Aminu scored zero points on 0-of-2 shooting with a rebound and a block in Monday's Game 4.

    Aminu stunk it up again, but the Blazers didn't get much help from their bench either. Rodney Hood (40 minutes, seven points on 3-of-11 shooting with two rebounds, two assists, two steals and a 3-pointer) and Evan Turner (six points on 3-of-4 shooting with two rebounds and a steal) didn't do much, showing that coach Stotts didn't have many options to choose from.

  • Stephen Curry - G - Golden State Warriors

    Stephen Curry led the Warriors to a 119-117 OT Game 4 on Monday with 37 points on 11-of-25 shooting with 13 rebounds, 11 assists, a steal and seven 3-pointers.

    Curry put on an off-ball clinic tonight, running circles around the Blazers to get open even though he drew consistent triple-teams. Steve Kerr wanted to end this series tonight so Curry played the entire second half including OT and the move paid off. There shouldn’t be any more noise about Curry’s ability to perform in the playoffs as he destroyed the Blazers in every coverage they threw at him. It’ll be all eyes on Curry again in the Finals as they look to three-peat.

  • Draymond Green - F - Golden State Warriors

    Draymond Green notched a 18-14-11 triple-double to go with three steals, two blocks and a 3-pointer in Monday’s Game 4 win over the Blazers.

    Green has proven over the past two games that he still has the ability to kick it into high gear. His defensive tenacity and anticipation might be the best in the league as he’s a one-man wrecking crew on that end of the floor. His only triple was a big one late in OT and his ability to ignite the Warriors on a big run thanks to his defense and passing were huge reasons why the Warriors swept the Blazers.

  • Jordan Bell - F - Golden State Warriors

    Jordan Bell started in Monday's Game 4 against the Blazers and scored seven points on 3-of-5 shooting with two assists and a steal.

    Bell drew his first career playoff start after Damian Jones (DNP-CD) looked overwhelmed in his Game 3 start, but ceded the closing minutes to Kevon Looney (29 minutes, 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting with 14 rebounds, a steal and a block) who played the best out of all the Warriors' centers. Looney's timing and offensive rebounding have been huge for Golden State and his ability to switch on to perimeter players has also been a huge reason as to why he sees the floor more than the other bigs.

  • Klay Thompson - G - Golden State Warriors

    Klay Thompson struggled in Monday's Game 4 win over the Blazers with 17 points on 7-of-21 shooting with six rebounds, two assists, two steals, a block and three 3-pointers.

    Thompson has been forced to put the ball on the floor more with the Warriors lacking playmakers and you can clearly see him out of his comfort zone. His defense was stifling tonight in crunch time as he perfectly contested both of Damian Lillard's shot attempts at the end of OT.

  • Alfonzo McKinnie - F - Golden State Warriors

    Alfonzo McKinnie started in Monday’s Game 4 win over the Blazers and scored 12 points on 5-of-12 shooting with two rebounds and a 3-pointer.

    McKinnie drew the start in place of Andre Iguodala (calf strain) and had the worst plus-minus out of all the starters but came up with some big offensive rebounds in OT. He can’t space the floor any better than Shaun Livingston (22 minutes, eight points on 4-of-4 shooting with a rebound, an assist, a steal and a block) who plays much better with the Warriors’ starters so the starting job is just in name.

  • Jordan Bell - F - Golden State Warriors

    Jordan Bell will start at center in Monday's Game 4 for the Warriors.

    Bell has played between 11 and 15 minutes in the three conference finals games, and he's unlikely to play too much more than that tonight. Look for Kevon Looney to continue to get more minutes than Bell tonight.

    Source: Anthony Slater on Twitter