On Mamba Night, the Lakers make short work of Blazers to take 3-1 series lead For Lakers’ LeBron James, Jacob Blake’s shooting is bigger issue than a big Game 4 victory Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error Video: What LeBron James said about Jacob Blake … ‘Black people in America are scared’ LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — For each of Damian Lillard’s 42 points on Thursday night, the moment that might most define his utter desperation to keep the Portland Trail Blazers’ season alive came on defense.After missing a shot, Lillard attacked on defense as the Brooklyn Nets brought the ball up court. He dove for the deflection and managed to find C.J. McCollum for a short jumper with 53 seconds left.That tiny bit of defense in a track meet turned out to produce the game-winning points in a 134-133 victory for Portland, won by the slimmest of margins. A sieve-like Portland defense had to wait and watch Caris LeVert’s last-second game-winning attempt fly overhead … before bouncing off the rim.The win assured the Trail Blazers the eighth spot in Saturday’s play-in game against the Memphis Grizzlies. They only need to beat the banged-up Grizzlies once (Memphis needs to beat them twice) to advance to a first-round date with the Lakers in the 1 vs. 8 series that begins Tuesday night. The bubble’s seeming team of destiny did all it could to be in the playoff picture. With a 128-102 win over the Dallas Mavericks, they finished a perfect 8-0 in the bubble to climb to the cusp from 13th place, six games back when the season went on hiatus. Devin Booker scored 25 points and the Suns shot 41 percent from 3-point range.Their game took place in AdventHealth Arena, the same venue the Nets and Trail Blazers played in afterward. As the Nets headed to the locker room, the Phoenix players cheered their arrival and asked them to win one to complete their Cinderella journey.“I’m proud of this group regardless,” Booker said. “We could have had a different approach to this bubble, to this opportunity. But we didn’t. We stayed locked in.”The Grizzlies saved their best for last and saved their season in the process. They pounded the Milwaukee Bucks, 119-106, leading by double digits the entire second half. Milwaukee was without Giannis Antetokounmpo due to a suspension for a headbutt, but every other key player put in respectable minutes.Still they could not contain Jonas Valancius (26 points, 19 rebounds, 12 assists) and Ja Morant (12 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists), who became the first teammates in Memphis franchise history to record triple-doubles in the same game. Dillon Brooks led Memphis with 31 points, carving up Milwaukee’s vaunted defense with midrange and long-range shooting.It came just at the right time. The Grizzlies had to win to be in the play-in game after squandering their entire three-game lead by losing six of their first seven games. First-year coach Taylor Jenkins topped mentor Mike Budenholzer, and was plenty relieved about it.“That’s the resiliency, that’s what we talk about so much with this group,” he said. “They were the first ones to say today, ‘Why did we wait until Game 8 to start playing Grizzlies basketball?’ ”The Grizzlies did not allow themselves much celebration on the court as time ran out, but after several quiet minutes, shouting and whooping could be heard from their locker room.The team decided the game ball should go to Valanciunas, whose previous career-high assist mark was five. He told Southern California New Group that he couldn’t recall recording a triple-double at any level of basketball.“That was my first triple-double, so definitely going to keep that ball for a long time,” he said. “Show my kids that daddy did it.”At the bottom of the race, one of the NBA’s most hallowed streaks finally ended. After 22 straight years in the playoffs, the San Antonio Spurs were eliminated before they even lost to the Utah Jazz on Thursday afternoon. Gregg Popovich, 71, will miss the postseason for just the second time in his career, winning five championships in the intervening years.But the often hard-edged coach showed a shade of grace in his quiet exit, hastened by losing LaMarcus Aldridge during the hiatus to season-ending surgery and finalized by the Blazers’ and Suns’ hot streaks. For a dynasty that was built on Hall of Fame careers from David Robinson to Tim Duncan, Popovich let the ending pass quietly.“Looking at the past doesn’t do much good,” Popovich told reporters. “Any success we’ve had has been because we’ve had some great players.”There’s been speculation that Popovich may have coached his last season. The oldest active NBA head coach also leads USA Basketball, which could have its hands full next year with the delayed Olympics. When a reporter attempted to ask if his retirement was imminent, Popovich flashed back to his old self.“Are you trying to flatter me?” he quipped.Related Articles Photos: Lakers defeat Trail Blazers in Game 4 of first-round playoff series Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook and other NBA stars pay tribute to Kobe Bryant After the game, Lillard hinged over and rested his hands on his knees.“(Expletive), I was tired,” he said wearily. “I played the whole second half. I was like, ‘Please miss, please get the rebound.’ ”The Lakers have winning records this season against both of their potential opponents. They went 2-1 against Memphis and 2-1 against Portland. But they haven’t taken the court against those teams in the restart, which they’ve largely agreed is closer to a new season than a continuation of the 2019-20 campaign.Lillard has been the star of the “new” season, leading the bubble in scoring and notching 154 points in Portland’s last three games, all wins. Said Coach Terry Stotts: “And we needed every one of them.”LeVert’s shot had a more profound effect on a team that could only watch: The Phoenix Suns, who had morphed into the feel-good team of the bubble, were swept out of contention.