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Portland pulls away from Lakers, as Denver falls at home, changing NBA Western Conference playoff picture

If the NBA playoffs began today, the Trail Blazers would be the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference.

OK, so it's not a given, but Portland's chances improved significantly with Sunday's results.

The Trail Blazers won on the road, 97-81 over the Los Angeles, and pulled even for the eighth spot with the Denver Nuggets, who fell hard, 115-90 at home to the New Orleans Pelicans.

That left Portland and Denver both at 35-38 — and the first tiebreaker is head-to-head matchups, with the Blazers owning a 2-1 series lead.

The big showdown is 7 p.m. Tuesday at Moda Center, where the Nuggets and Blazers will meet for the final time.

Denver was losing big as the Blazers and Lakers tipped off at Staples Center.

And Portland got off to a good start, taking a 22-17 lead into the second quarter.

At the half, the Blazers led 40-32.

Portland took control in the third quarter and coasted after that, notching their 12th consecutive win over the Lakers.

Damian Lillard (22 points, including 14 in his team's 37-point third quarter), Allen Crabbe (18) and CJ McCollum (13) led the scoring, as coach Terry Stotts was able to empty his bench down the stretch.

Noah Vonleh had a career-high 14 rebounds.

Jusuf Nurkic had 13 rebounds and scored nine points in 24 minutes on 4-for-15 shooting.

The Lakers fell to 21-52.

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