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Playoff destination sealed, Blazers down Nuggets

PORTLAND — Damian Lillard had 21 points before sitting in the final quarter and the Portland Trail Blazers, with their playoff fate sealed earlier Wednesday night, defeated the Denver Nuggets 107-99.

CJ McCollum added 17 points for the Blazers, who led by as many as 18 points in the final quarter despite putting all of their starters on the bench.

The Trail Blazers were assured of the fifth seed in the Western Conference by virtue of Dallas' 96-91 loss to the San Antonio Spurs. The Blazers will face the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round of the playoffs.

The fans roared at the Moda Center when the result was announced. Guard C.J. McCollum addressed the crowd before tipoff: "When they doubted us, you didn't. So thank you."

He punctuated the sentiment: "Let's get ready for the playoffs!"

Emmanuel Mudiay finished with 25 points to lead five Nuggets in double figures. Denver finished the season 33-49 and in 10th place in the West, improving by three games over last year's win total.

Coach Michael Malone, asked to assess his feeling about the Nuggets' finish, said: "Not happy. Not satisfied. But encouraged."

The Nuggets jumped out to 31-27 in the first quarter, capped by Nikola Jokic's 3-pointer. Jokic led all scorers with 11 points in the quarter. Jokic had 18 points and 13 rebounds for the game, his 16th double-double of the season.

Allen Crabbe's 3-pointer put Portland up 35-34 and the Blazers went on to hold a slim 58-56 lead at the break. Crabbe finished the game with 16 points.

Portland stretched the lead to 81-70 lead in the third quarter on CJ McCollum's layup.

Owner Paul Allen and the fans gave the Blazers a standing ovation after the final buzzer. Portland lost all of its starters from last season's team except Lillard, and many did not expect them to make the playoffs.

The Blazers were coming off of a 106-105 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, sealed with Karl-Anthony Towns' hook shot with 1.8 seconds left.


Nuggets: Malone praised the development of G Will Barton, who was playing in his first season with the Nuggets after three seasons with Portland. Barton ranks third in the league among reserves. "He's been a spark plug off the bench for us all season," Malone said. ... Denver was without Darrell Arthur (knee) and C Joffrey Lauvergne (back).

Trail Blazers: Lillard hit his 827th 3-pointer, besting Wesley Matthews' Portland franchise record of 826. ... Lillard averaged 25.1 points in the regular season, while McCollum averaged 20.8.


The Nuggets are finished for the season.

The Trail Blazers play the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round of the playoffs.

Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard passes the ball over Denver Nuggets guard Emmanuel Mudiay (0) and center Nikola Jokic during the first quarter on Wednesday. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS