Damian Lillard scored 42 points, 12 coming in a tightly contested fourth quarter, as the Portland Trailblazers edged the Brooklyn Nets 134-133 on Thursday (US time) to advance to the play-in round.
Consequently, the result eliminated the Phoenix Suns, who are going home despite an 8-0 record at Disney.
The 8th- and 9th-place finishers in the West -- in this case, Portland and Memphis, respectively -- will battle this weekend in a 1- or 2-game play-in series on Saturday and, if necessary, Sunday (US time).
The Blazers must win only one game, while the Grizzlies must win both. The winner of the play-in will face the top-seeded Los Angeles Lakers in the traditional first round of the playoffs.
After Joe Harris' basket tied the game at 130 inside the last 2 minutes, Jusuf Nurkic and CJ McCollum scored back to back to put Portland ahead 134-130 with 53.4 seconds left.
The Nets threatened when Caris LeVert completed a 3-point play, then saw Carmelo Anthony miss a 3-point attempt, setting up Brooklyn for the game's play.
But LeVert missed from long distance, icing the win for Portland.
Clutch 3-point shooting by Lillard brought Portland back in the fourth quarter after absorbing a 15-1 surge by the Nets in the third.
Lillard added 12 assists and 8 3-pointers, McCollum tallied 25 points despite missing all 6 attempts from downtown, and Nurkic chipped in 22 points and 10 rebounds.
LeVert finished with 37 points and 9 assists, and Joe Harris and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot each scored 19 for Brooklyn, which will face Toronto in the East 1st round.
Meanwhile, San Antonio, a fourth team that was eyeing to reach the playoffs, was eliminated after the victories by Memphis and Phoenix.
The Spurs lost to the Jazz 118-112 in their final regular season game.
In another late game, Orlando beat already-ousted New Orleans 133-127.
Orlando will take on East top seed Milwaukee in the playoffs 1st round. — With a report from Field Level Media
(For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website).