Moe Harkless Buzzer-Beater Powers Trail Blazers Past LeBron James-Less Lakers

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LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 9:  Damian Lillard #0 of the Portland Trail Blazers looks to pass the ball against the Los Angeles Lakers on April 9, 2019 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

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The Portland Trail Blazers continued their winning ways ahead of the postseason with a 104-101 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday at Staples Center.

Maurice Harkless drilled a game-winning three-pointer after tying it up with a shot in the lane on his team’s previous possession.

Portland is now 10-2 in its last 12 games and will enjoy home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs as a result. Los Angeles saw its two-game winning streak come to an end in the final contest of a disappointing season.

Harkless (26 points and eight rebounds), Enes Kanter (22 points and 16 boards), Damian Lillard (20 points, eight assists, four rebounds and three steals) and Seth Curry (19 points on 5-of-8 from deep) led the way for the Trail Blazers, while Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (32 points, eight assists and five rebounds) countered with an impressive showing in defeat for the Purple and Gold.

              

Lakers Should Move on from Front Office but Not Luke Walton

The Lakers’ 2018-19 season delivered one final plot twist just as NBA fans thought it couldn’t get any stranger.

Magic Johnson stepped down as president of basketball operations before Tuesday’s game and didn’t even tell owner Jeanie Buss about the decision before announcing it in an impromptu press conference:

It was a stunning development and came after head coach Luke Walton said “No. No anxiety,” when asked about fears he would be fired after the game, per Dave McMenamin of ESPN. “… But call me later tonight and maybe that answer will be different.”

Despite those words, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported the entire coaching staff “fully expected to be fired” and felt that way for months.

Johnson’s departure may have changed things, though:

Earlier Tuesday, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne had reported Walton and Johnson hadn’t even spoken for weeks, underscoring the level of disconnect there was between the front office and the head coach:

This reported disconnect between Walton and the front office is nothing new and has been a central point of many Lakers headlines throughout the season.

In November, Wojnarowski and McMenamin reported Johnson “admonished” Walton following the 3-5 start to the season. That report noted Buss’ support for Walton was “unwavering” even after Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka were given control of basketball decisions.

That was a common theme, as Buss appeared on Zach Lowe’s The Lowe Post podcast in January and said the organization was behind Walton.

Marc Stein of the New York Times reported that month “Walton has the strongest possible backing” from Buss, who would “prevent such rashness” if Johnson and Pelinka made a move to fire the coach.

The reports made it clear Walton had much more support from the owner than the president of basketball operations and general manager. He reportedly wasn’t even speaking with Johnson, which makes for an incredibly difficult work environment before even considering the other drama that engulfed Los Angeles’ season.

Whether the Lakers would trade for Anthony Davis—who shares an agent with LeBron James and let it be known he wouldn’t re-sign with the New Orleans Pelicans—before February’s deadline and the pettiness that ensued was the biggest story in the league for weeks.

The Pelicans said they “requested the league to strictly enforce the tampering rules associated with this transaction” in a statement, and a team source told Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium that the Lakers were leaking trade offers to the media.

ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said the Pelicans didn’t even consider offers from the Lakers as a way of paying them back for perceived tampering: