Memphis Grizzlies, Phoenix Suns, Portland Trail Blazers, San Antonio Spurs

Grizzlies, Suns win to put pressure on Blazers; Spurs eliminated

The Memphis Grizzlies and Phoenix Suns won to keep playoff hopes alive.

The only NBA playoff spot that’s not currently locked in is the 8-seed in the Western Conference. On Thursday, four key matchups will ultimately decide which two teams will be competing in the league’s play-in game(s), which will pit the current 8-seed against the ninth-place team.

The Memphis Grizzlies and Portland Trail Blazers were in control of their own destinies heading into their final seeding games, while the Phoenix Suns and San Antonio Spurs needed wins and some additional help in order to sneak into the play-in scenario.

Now that the Grizz and Suns have already wrapped up wins, here’s a look at the updated playoff scenarios. Remember, whoever enters the play-in scenario as the 8-seed only has to beat the ninth-place team once in a head-to-head matchup. The ninth-place team has to beat the 8-seed twice in order to secure that playoff spot.

Grizzlies lock up a play-in spot

With a 119-106 win over the Milwaukee Bucks, who played without Giannis Antetokounmpo due to a one-game suspension, the Grizzlies secured their place in the play-in game. That spot was in far more serious jeopardy than anyone expected before the seeding games began, since Memphis had a 3.5-game lead on the rest of the pack. The Grizz stumbled early on with an 0-3 start, lost Jaren Jackson Jr. to a meniscus tear and struggled to the tune of 2-6 in the bubble, but they got the win that counted most.

Now, they’ll be rooting for a Blazers loss on Thursday. If Portland loses, Memphis enters the play-in as the 8-seed and will face Phoenix; if Portland wins, Memphis will drop to ninth and have to beat Damian Lillard twice to make the postseason.

Suns keep miracle run for a play-in spot alive

The Suns did all they could possibly do in the bubble to keep their distant playoff hopes alive. Trailing the Grizzlies by a whopping six games entering the NBA restart, they went a perfect 8-0 in these seeding games after their 128-102 win over the Dallas Mavericks to close the distance and give themselves a fighting chance.

Devin Booker was sensational as one of the two main frontrunners for Bubble MVP, Mikal Bridges routinely locked people up in “Mikal Jail,” Cameron Payne and Jevon Carter wreaked havoc off the bench … the list goes on and on, but the Suns were the most enjoyable story of the bubble, hands down.

Unfortunately, with the Grizzlies win, Phoenix now needs a Blazers loss to sneak into the play-in scenario as the ninth-place team. If Portland wins, the Suns will fall just short of ending their 10-year playoff drought. No matter what happens, though, Monty Williams’ squad should be exceptionally proud of the growth shown in their bubble experience and optimistic about the future.

It’s do-or-die time for the Blazers

It’s simple for Dame and the Blazers: Win or go home. If they beat the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday afternoon, they claim the 8-seed. If they lose, they fall out of the play-in scenario entirely, with Phoenix claiming the No. 9 spot behind Memphis.

The Nets have been surprisingly good in the bubble at 5-2 and will reportedly play most of their (available) starters. How long Jacque Vaughn keeps them in is anyone’s guess since Brooklyn has nothing to play for but pride, but even if the Nets go hard, betting against the guy from Rip City who just dropped 51 and 61 points in back-to-back games is a tough proposition.

The Spurs’ record-tying playoff streak comes to an end

The Spurs needed a win over the Utah Jazz, plus two of the Memphis-Portland-Phoenix trio to lose in order to sneak into the play-in game(s). Unfortunately, those pipe dreams burst when both the Grizzlies and Suns handily took care of business in the early evening games.

San Antonio had been to the playoffs in a 22 straight seasons, which tied the longest streak in major U.S. sports history. While it’s unfortunate Gregg Popovich and company won’t be able to break that record with a 23rd consecutive playoff berth, the Spurs played surprisingly well without LaMarcus Aldridge, have plenty of young talent to look forward to and certainly have nothing to be ashamed of after such a historic run.

Next: Picks for NBA All-Bubble Teams and Bubble MVP

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