Blazers Claim Third Seed and Northwest Division With Win vs. Jazz
Portland will host New Orleans in the First Round of the Playoffs
PORTLAND – The Trail Blazers closed the season on a high note against the Utah Jazz, scoring a 102-93 win behind a sellout crowd of 20,186 to earn the third seed in the playoffs and win the Northwest Division. Portland is set to host sixth-seeded New Orleans in the First Round of the 2018 NBA Playoffs starting this weekend at Moda Center.
Damian Lillard finished his superb season by leading all players with 36 points and 10 assists. He finishes the 2017-18 season with the fifth-highest scoring average in the NBA (26.9). Clyde Drexler was the last Blazer to rank among the league’s five best in scoring when he finished fourth during the 1991-92 season (25.0).
“Going into the postseason, which is what we play for, that’s what we work toward – having an opportunity to get in the postseason and have success, but just for feeling good, for your confidence to have this type of performance against a really good team,” said Lillard on entering the playoffs with a win. “I thought we played a really complete game. It was a big game. It meant a lot for us. I think our team should be really encouraged going into the playoffs because of what we were able to do.”
Portland led by as many as 24 points early in the fourth quarter. The Trail Blazers shot 46.1% (41-89) from the field while limiting the Jazz to just 37.1% (33-89 FG) shooting. Portland’s improved defense was a major storyline throughout the year.
“I thought we played well defensively,” Head Coach Terry Stotts said of the season. “And when you’re struggling offensively, you’ve got to be able to rely on that, so I’m proud of that. We stayed in the top 10 all year – there’s peaks and valleys obviously, but that was the goal coming into it, and we sustained it for the most part throughout the year.”
The Trail Blazers end the 2017-18 regular season with a 49-33 record, their best since 2014-15 (51-31). Portland has earned homecourt advantage in the First Round of the playoffs for the first time since 2009. The Trail Blazers are playoff bound for the 34th time in 48 years, including each of the last five seasons.
“If you would have told us before the year started that we’d be in position to be the third seed and clinch the division, I think that we would have told you we’d take that,” said CJ McCollum. “Regardless of what’s happened this season, the ups and downs, bad road trips and good road trips, I think we’ve stuck together and battled some injuries, and overall I think we’re in good position heading into the playoffs and being at home.”
The third seed is Portland’s highest in the Western Conference Playoffs since 2000, when the Trail Blazers were also seeded third. That season, Portland went all the way to the Western Conference Finals before losing in seven games to the LA Lakers.
The Trail Blazers are Northwest Division Champions for the third time (2014-15, 2008-09-tied). With four Pacific Division titles, Portland has now won its division seven times in team history.
“Like I told the team, winning the division is a big deal,” Coach Stotts added. “It’s always going to be there, it’s always going to be in the rafters. The banner is always going to be in the practice facility.”
• Lillard scored 30+ points for the 100th time in his NBA career, joining Clyde Drexler (130 times) as the only Trail Blazers to score 30 points or more in at least 100 games. Lillard is also one of only seven NBA players to score 30 points in 100 games since he joined the NBA in 2012-13 (Harden, Durant, James, Westbrook, Curry, Davis).
• CJ McCollum tallied 19 points, completing his season with a 21.4 scoring average.
• Five members of the Jazz scored in double figures, led by 17 points each from rookie Donovan Mitchell (6-23 FG) and Ricky Rubio (5-12 FG, 6-6 FT). Rudy Gobert notched a double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds.
• Portland and Utah split this season’s series at two games apiece.
• Lillard broke his career high with 493 free throws this season, good for second-most by any Trail Blazer in a season (Kiki Vandeweghe – 523, 1985-86).
• Jusuf Nurkic finished just one rebound shy of his fifth straight double-double, finishing with 13 points and nine rebounds to go with four blocks.
• Entering the game, the Jazz had allowed the fewest points per game in the NBA since the All-Star break (95.1).
"We did ourselves a favor locking down home court, playing in front of the best fans in the league." - Damian Lillard
Portland’s 2018 NBA Playoffs begin over the weekend when the Trail Blazers will host the New Orleans Pelicans at Moda Center.
During the regular season, Portland and New Orleans split the season series, 2-2. The Trail Blazers outscored the Pelicans by a single point, 439-438, during the season series. Each game was decided by 10 points or fewer. The Trail Blazers and Pelicans have never before met in the postseason.