Zion, Pelicans Eliminated from Playoff Contention After Blazers' Win over 76ers

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistAugust 10, 2020

New Orleans Pelican's Zion Williamson warms up for the team's NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday, Aug. 1, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Kevin C. Cox/Pool Photo via AP)
Kevin C. Cox/Associated Press

NBA fans dreamed of a first-round matchup between Zion Williamson's New Orleans Pelicans and LeBron James' Los Angeles Lakers when the league announced its plans to restart the season in Walt Disney World Resort.

That there would be a play-in tournament for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference between the Nos. 8 and 9 seeds if the No. 9 seed was within four games following the seeding contests made it seem all the more likely.

So much for that.

New Orleans was eliminated from playoff contention Sunday when the Portland Trail Blazers defeated the Philadelphia 76ers 124-121. Damian Lillard was nearly unstoppable with 51 points and seven assists, bolstering his team's chances of making the playoffs in the process.

The Pelicans already lost earlier Sunday, 122-113 to the San Antonio Spurs.

As a result, Portland is just a half-game behind the Memphis Grizzlies for the No. 8 seed, while the Phoenix Suns are one game behind the Trail Blazers. The Spurs are also alive a half-game behind Portland.

That race for the No. 9 seed is critical too, as being No. 10 or lower means elimination even if a team is within four games of the No. 8 spot. Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press noted the Sacramento Kings were also eliminated with the Trail Blazers' win.

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As for the play-in tournament, the No. 9 seed will have to win two straight games against the No. 8 seed to get that playoff spot. The No. 8 seed will have to win just one of two contests.

The winner will get the top-seeded Los Angeles Lakers in the first round.