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Zags in the NBA: Collins vs Clarke

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What a game

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The NBA resumed their season on Thursday night, but Gonzaga fans tuned in with vested interest on Friday afternoon. Brandon Clarke and the Memphis Grizzlies battled Zach Collins and the Portland Trail Blazers in an incredibly important game for playoff seeding. A win for Memphis would put Portland behind the eight-ball, but a win for Portland puts them in the driver’s seat for a potential play-in series in a couple weeks.

What a game it was. The two teams exchanged runs throughout the game and it led to a fast and furious fourth quarter. Brandon Clarke caught a lob and threw down a thunderous dunk over Zach Collins and had a couple words for him on the way down. The refs awarded him a very soft technical foul. Two plays later, Collins backed down Clarke, scored, and had some words of his own, getting another soft technical foul. Two Bulldogs, who missed each other by one season, had social media ablaze for a couple minutes.

After some crazy Carmelo Anthony heroics, Clarke would end up finishing a really tough lob to tie the game with 30 seconds left in regulation and force overtime. In the extra session, Collins fouled out, but the Blazers got some clutch shot-making from CJ McCollum to secure the 135-130 victory. Clarke played a season-high 34 minutes, filling in for Jonas Valanciunas, who battled foul trouble the entire game. Clarke, like usual, was brutally efficient. He finished with 21 points on 7-for-8 shooting from both the field and the foul line, along with seven rebounds, two assists and two blocks. He had no turnovers. Neither did Collins, who started in his first game in nine months and played 37 minutes. He finished with seven points on 3-of-9 shooting to go with nine rebounds and three assists.

Portland is now within 2.5 games of Memphis for the eighth spot in the West. If they remain within four games, the two teams will have a play-in series to determine the final playoff team.

In the Eastern Conference, Rui Hachimura and the Wizards fell to Phoenix, 125-112. Hachimura picked up two fouls in the first three minutes and sat the majority of the first half. The Wizards have no John Wall, no Bradley Beal, and no Davis Bertans in the league restart, so their offensive weapons are certainly limited. The 2019 WCC Player of the Year finished with 21 points on 8-of-15 shooting and grabbed eight rebounds, but he had five turnovers and never really got into much of a rhythm.

Because of the Wizards’ foul trouble, Johnathan Williams got some good run. He grabbed a couple rebounds in the few minutes he played in the first quarter, but wasn’t much of a factor the rest of the way. He played 13 minutes, split a pair of foul shots, but didn’t attempt anything from the field. He grabbed two rebounds and blocked a shot.

The Wizards are two games behind the Brooklyn Nets for the eight seed in the East. The two teams play each other on Sunday. A loss for Washington may put a nail in the coffin of their playoff hopes.

Kelly Olynyk and the Miami Heat tip off at 10 am on Saturday morning. Miami is guaranteed a playoff spot.