Lakers in play-in? Lillard, Trail Blazers take control of six seed with win

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PORTLAND, Ore. — Damian Lillard had 38 points to lead Portland to a 106-101 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night that moved the Trail Blazers into the six seed in the West and gave them the tiebreaker over their Western Conference foe as the season winds to a close.

Lillard had five 3-pointers for the Blazers, who were back at home after going 5-1 on a six-game trip. They were welcomed back to Portland with fans allowed at the Moda Center for the first time this season.

Anthony Davis had 36 points and 12 rebounds for the Lakers, who were without LeBron James for the third straight game. Los Angeles has lost eight of its last 10 games.

“It’s tough man,” Davis said. “It’s a tough loss for us. We wanted to get that one.”

“I think we’ve played in enough important games, we know how to prepare going into those games, how to give ourselves a chance to be successful,” Lillard said.

The Lakers and the Blazers were both 37-29 heading into the game but the Lakers held sixth in the Western Conference because Los Angeles had the tiebreaker with a better record against conference teams. With the win, Portland moved into sixth, a game up on Los Angeles, and also secured the tiebreaker based on a 2-1 head-to-head series win. Both teams were trying to earn a playoff spot outright with just five games left in the regular season.

Markieff Morris‘ tip shot got the Lakers to 89-85 with 7:21 left in the game but Lillard answered with a 3-pointer for Portland.

Davis’ 3 and Alex Caruso‘s layup narrowed it to 94-90 for the Lakers, and again Lillard hit a 3 in response.

Portland went up 100-90 after CJ McCollum‘s 3-pointer. Davis made a series of free throws before a tip-in that closed the Lakers within five. He added another pair of free throws to make it 100-97 with 1:10 left but the Lakers couldn’t catch up.

Los Angeles was coming off a 118-94 loss to the rival Clippers on Thursday. Davis did not play after the first quarter because of back spasms but he started against the Blazers.

But the Lakers remained without four-time league MVP James, who has missed two games while he recovers from a high ankle sprain.

Boosted by cheering fans, the Blazers went up 34-20 after the opening quarter. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope hit a 3-pointer late in the first half to get the Lakers to 55-53 but Portland led 59-55 at the break.

Lillard had 19 points in the opening quarter alone and the Blazers were 9 for 9 from the free-throw line.

Caldwell-Pope’s jumper tied it at 64 early in the second half before Davis’ 3-pointer put the Lakers in front. Anfernee Simon’s jumper put Portland back ahead 74-73 and the Blazers led 82-78 heading into the final quarter.