Playoff race is on for Portland Trail Blazers
LOS ANGELES — Damian Lillard scored 22 points and the Portland Trail Blazers beat the Los Angeles Lakers 97-81 on Sunday night to pull even with Denver in the race for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Both the Blazers and Nuggets are 35-38 with nine games left in the regular season. They play each other Tuesday in Portland.
Denver lost at home to the New Orleans Pelicans earlier Sunday night.
Portland took control by outscoring the Lakers 37-24 in the third quarter and led by as many as 26 points. Los Angeles shot 39 percent from the field and was outrebounded 61-42.
Allen Crabbe added 18 points off the bench for the Blazers, and Noah Vonleh grabbed 14 rebounds.
D'Angelo Russell led the Lakers with 22 points, and reserve Tyler Ennis scored 14.
Portland led 40-32 at the break after an unsightly half in which the teams took turns struggling from the field. At halftime, both were shooting exactly 32.6 percent.
The Lakers won their previous game against the Timberwolves but have won consecutive games only once since mid-November.
Trail Blazers: Shot 62.4 percent against Minnesota on Saturday, their best mark since hitting 64.1 percent on March 12, 2003. Coming into Sunday, they had shot 50.6 percent over their last five games.
Lakers: Rookie forward Brandon Ingram, who started the previous 19 games and averaged 12.1 points on 48.4 percent shooting, did not play because of right patellar tendinitis. Said coach Luke Walton: "He was out there warming up and it's not right." Corey Brewer got his first start for the Lakers.
Trail Blazers: Face the Nuggets for the final time this season Tuesday in Portland. The Blazers lead the season series 2-1. Lillard is averaging 36.3 points against Denver.
Lakers: Host the Washington Wizards on Tuesday and will face a top NBA backcourt for the second consecutive game. Los Angeles lost the first meeting 116-108 when John Wall and Bradley Beal combined for 56 points for Washington.