PORTLAND, Ore. – Damian Lillard had 27 points and nine assists, and the Portland Trail Blazers held off a late run by the Memphis Grizzlies for a 113-98 victory on Sunday night.
The Trail Blazers clinched their fifth straight playoff spot earlier in the evening when Utah won at Minnesota.
“It feels great to be able to get it done early this year,” Lillard said.
CJ McCollum added 20 points and another nine assists for Portland, which is still holding on to third place in the Western Conference with five games remaining. The Blazers have won four of their last five.
Rookie Dillon Brooks had 28 points for Memphis, which sits second-to-last in the West.
Portland led 103-80 in the fourth quarter but the Grizzlies went on a 13-0 run capped by Brooks’ jumper with 4:19 left, pulling within 10. That prompted Portland coach Terry Stotts to re-insert his starters.
Marquis Teague’s basket got Memphis within eight points, but the Blazers took over with back-to-back 3-pointers from Evan Turner and Al-Farouq Aminu to extend Portland’s lead to 113-95 with 1:12 left. That sent the starters back to the Blazers’ bench for good.
Marc Gasol started for the Grizzlies but his minutes were limited because of a left groin injury. He finished with seven points and five rebounds in 20minutes.
MarShon Brooks, who had 21 points against the Blazers in a 108-103 victory in Memphis on Wednesday, was out with a left ankle injury. Coach J.B. Bickerstaff also sat JaMychal Green (knee soreness), Candler Parsons (rest) and Andrew Harrison, who missed this third game with a right wrist/left shoulder injury.
Portland’s loss to the Grizzlies earlier this week spoiled a three-game road trip. But the Blazers were without Lillard, who didn’t play because he was back in Portland awaiting the birth of his son. Damian Lillard Jr. was born Thursday morning.
The Blazers were without backup center Ed Davis, who rolled his ankle during the Blazers’ 105-96 victory over the Clippers on Friday night. Portland said X-rays and an MRI on the ankle were both negative. Davis is expected to miss up to 14 days.
The Blazers led by 15 points in the first quarter, but Memphis closed the gap in the second. Ben McLemore hit a jumper to get the Grizzlies to 48-47, then had a layup for the lead.
Portland wrestled it back and went into halftime up 55-51. Lillard led all scorers with 13 points in the first two quarters.
CJ McCollum’s 3-pointer stretched the Blazers’ lead to 72-61 midway through the third, and his dunk later made it 79-63.
Portland led 98-75 going into the final quarter and Portland’s starters, with the exception of McCollum, went to the bench.