The Portland Trail Blazers and Memphis Grizzlies will face off in the NBA's first-ever play-in tournament to decide the eighth and final Western Conference playoff participant.
The first (and potentially only) game will take place Saturday at 2:30 p.m. ET at ESPN's Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando, Florida. ABC will be the television home for the matchup, which can be live-streamed on ESPN.
If the Blazers win, they will assume the eighth seed and face the first-placed Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the NBA playoffs, beginning Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET. If the Grizzlies win, Memphis and Portland will play another matchup Sunday at 4:30 p.m. ET to decide the eighth seed. ESPN would broadcast that one.
Below you can take a look at how both teams got here in the lead-up to their pivotal Saturday matchup.
The Memphis Grizzlies, a rebuilding team based around an early-20s core of Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr., were not expected to contend for a playoff berth, especially after the Grizz went just 33-49 the year before.
The future looked bright with Morant, the 2019 draft's No. 2 overall pick, running the show, but anything resembling a top-eight seed seemed far-fetched.
Morant and crew defied expectations, however, as they went 32-33 before the NBA was suspended in March because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 21-year-old cruised to what should be a Rookie of the Year award with 17.8 points, 7.3 assists and 3.9 rebounds per game, and Jackson improved upon a promising rookie campaign with 17.4 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.6 blocks.
But the X-factor may have been the explosive Jonas Valanciunas, who produced points and rebounds in droves. He averaged 14.9 points and 11.3 rebounds in just 26.4 minutes of action, giving the Grizzlies some much-needed low-post scoring and propelling the team to a top-eight seed in the West before the restart.
Dillon Brooks pitched in as well, scoring 16.2 points per night.
The season didn't start well, with the team beginning 6-16, but the Grizz then went 7-6 over their next 13 games to move to 13-22 and avoid going into a tailspin.
At that point, the Grizz caught fire, winning seven straight and 11 of 13 to move to 24-24. After a loss to the New Orleans Pelicans, Memphis broke past the .500 mark with four wins in five contests to go to 28-26.
However, a tough schedule loomed for the Grizzlies, and Memphis faltered down the stretch. The Grizz lost five in a row in late February and started the Walt Disney World portion of the schedule with four straight defeats.
However, the 3.5-game cushion they built over the ninth-place team in the West leading into the restart paid off, as the Grizz were able to split their last four games to sneak into the play-in game.
It's been a rocky regular-season finish for the Grizz, and they will have to figure out how to win a pair versus Portland without Jackson, who suffered a torn meniscus and is out for the season.
Win or lose, though, Memphis looks like it's about to become a perennial playoff team with Morant and Jackson, who should lead the Grizz to great heights through the 2020s.
Portland Trail Blazers
A trying season for the Blazers saw them splutter to a 5-12 start. The loss of center Jusuf Nurkic, who broke his left leg in March 2019, clearly hindered the team, as the Blazers were left without their dominant scorer and rebounder who had established an excellent rapport with Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum.
Some reprieve came in the form of 10-time All-Star and three-time Olympic gold medalist Carmelo Anthony, however. The 36-year-old averaged 15.4 points and 6.3 rebounds per game, one year after playing just 10 games with the Houston Rockets and finding himself unable to land with another team.
While the Blazers didn't propel themselves to the upper echelon of the West, Anthony helped stabilize the team and stop the bleeding, keeping them within striking distance of the playoffs.
All the while, Lillard did Lillard things, which is to say that he dropped buckets at will. He averaged 30.0 points and 8.0 assists and scored 60 or more points three times, including a 61-point effort Tuesday against the Dallas Mavericks.
McCollum continued to be an excellent backcourt mate thanks to his scoring and ball-handling, and a few young players emerged in Gary Trent Jr. and Zach Collins.
Portland went into the restart with a 29-37 record but finished 35-39 overall after going 6-2. Their contests in Walt Disney World were highly entertaining and decided by an average of 4.6 points per game. Portland excelled on offense (although not so much on defense) and lit up scoreboard, scoring at least 110 points in every game.
The Blazers have taken on a new look in Florida too. Nurkic is back and has filled up the stat sheet with 17.6 points, 10.3 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game. Collins, who missed 63 games with a dislocated shoulder, is back in the mix and providing valuable minutes, posting 7.0 points and 6.3 rebounds for the year.
And Trent has developed into a sometimes unstoppable force off the bench, nailing a litany of three-pointers and provided some scoring reprieve for Lillard and McCollum in the backcourt. He's averaged 16.9 points on 51.6 percent shooting (50.7 percent from three-point range) during the restart.
Despite its restart success, Portland needed to beat the Brooklyn Nets in its final game to make the play-in round. The Blazers did so 134-133 behind 42 Lillard points, and now they are looking to advance to the playoffs for the seventh straight year.