What a roller coaster ride this week has been for Portland Trail Blazers fans. Not only did the Blazers (38-38) catch the Denver Nuggets (35-40) for the 8-seed, they managed to gain a 2.5-game lead (plus the tiebreaker). They also managed to reach .500 for the first time this season since Dec. 8.
However, Portland fans received bad news Friday when the team announced Jusuf Nurkić would miss the remainder of the regular season with a lower leg fracture. His prognosis for the playoffs is uncertain.
Ain’t No Party Like a Nurkić Party ‘Cause a Nurkić Party … Stops When He Has a Non-displaced Right Leg Fibular Fracture
The Nurkić Song: Late Thursday night Dave shared a new song by the Bosnian band Dubioza kolektiv about Portland’s favorite Bosnian. The band is apparently fairly popular in Nurkić’s home country. When Nurk had a chance to pick the music for warm ups earlier in March he picked one of their songs. Next time, he can pick Nurk Fever.
Another Injury to a Big Man: Unfortunately, the next time Nurk gets to pick a song may be a while. Nurkić sustained a non-displaced right leg fibular fracture that will keep him out at least two weeks. Dave Deckard broke the news for us Friday night. The Bosnian Beast tweeted this on Saturday:
Nurkić Fever Roundup: Before the injury, Nurkić’s “revenge game” against Denver not only increased the Blazers playoff chances; it also pushed Nurkić fever to a, well, fever pitch. The Bosnian Beast got all kinds of national attention for his play against his former team. David McKay wrote an article tracking some of the highlights.
Revisiting Nurkić’s Time in Denver: While Portland is loving Nurkić, it’s looking more and more like Denver got the wrong end of that trade. On Friday Chris Vernon and John Gonzalez of The Ringer discussed what went wrong for Nurkić in Denver in a podcast on Friday. David McKay wrote about it for us.
Games this Week
Blazers at Lakers, March 26: Portland led throughout in an easy 97-81 victory over the tanking Los Angeles Lakers. Lillard led the Blazers with 22 points, while Allen Crabbe contributed with 18 going 4-8 on 3-pointers. Noah Vonleh and Jusuf Nurkić dominated the boards with 14 and 13 rebounds, respectively. Portland out rebounded the Lakers 61 to 42.
Blazers vs. Nuggets, March 28: The most important game of the season for both teams lived up to the hype in an entertaining 122-113 win for the Blazers. The win gave Portland the inside track on the 8-seed. Six Nugget players scored in double figures, but Denver wouldn’t have been able to slow down Jusuf Nurkić even if they played with six players on the floor. The former Nugget played on a mission to show his former team what they lost by trading him. He scored a career high 33 points on 12-15 shooting and added 16 rebounds with 6 offensive boards.
Blazers vs. Rockets, March 30: Portland gutted out a great 117-107 win against the Houston Rockets. The Blazers led for most of the game, but were challenged when the Rockets came back to tie the game at 105-105 with 2:28 left. Portland’s defense locked things down from that point, only allowing Houston to score once after that. Lillard led the way with 31 point and 11 assists. Nurkić added 19 points and 11 boards.
Blazers vs. Suns, April 1: Losing Nurkić didn’t affect Portland’s play on Saturday night. The Blazers jumped out to an early lead against the Phoenix Suns and led the whole way in a 130-117 victory. Lillard and McCollum scored 31 and 29, respectively, while six different Blazers scored in double figures.
Damian Lillard again led the way this week for Portland averaging 25.7 points and 7.5 assists per game. In his three games, Jusuf Nurkić averaged 20.3 points and 13.0 rebounds.
Blazers’ Next Rival?: On Monday Peter Sampson asked the question “Who is the Trail Blazers’ next rival?” He looked at four different options including the Los Angeles Clippers, Oklahoma City Thunder, Denver Nuggets, and Minnesota Timberwolves.
Portland Surging Offense: Willy Raedy took an in-depth look at the Blazers’ offense since the All-Star break. He examined four factors in the improved offensive performance: shooting, turnovers, offensive rebounding, and free throw rate.
Famous Blazer Fan: The mailbag on Tuesday featured a special guest. Actor Kelly AuCoin of Showtime’s Billions and FX’s The Americans is a big Blazer fan and Dave reached out to him with some questions. Kelly also wrote the forward for Dave’s book.
Looking Ahead: Portland’s magic number is ...four? It’s actually a little more complicated since both Denver and New Orleans still have a chance to catch the Blazers. Eric Griffith explained the different scenarios here.
Portland, Denver, and New Orleans each have four games this week. Denver finishes a road trip with games at Miami, New Orleans, and Houston before coming home to face New Orleans again. Besides playing Denver twice, New Orleans matches up with Chicago at home and Golden Sate on the road.
The Blazers, meanwhile, play both Minnesota and Utah twice—once on the road and once at home.
Be sure to check back on Blazer’s Edge throughout the week to stay up to date on all the latest Trail Blazer news and analysis.