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Goldsberry: Blazers will struggle with defense in NBA playoffs

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ESPN’s Kirk Goldsberry argues that Lillard and co. will have trouble with defense now that Nurkic is out of the lineup.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Chicago Bulls Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN’s Kirk Goldsberry believes the Trail Blazers are in for some high-scoring playoff games now that Jusuf Nurkic is out of the lineup. Unfortunately, Goldsberry hypothesizes that the end result may not be pleasing to Blazermaniacs:

Nurkic was having his best season, and the Blazers were at their best when he was in games. Portland’s net rating was plus-10.4 when Nurkic was on the floor and minus-5.0 when he wasn’t. In other words, Portland was a great team with Nurkic and a lottery-level team without him. As the brutal reality of the Nurkic injury sets in, Portland has to find ways to win without him.

Even with a healthy Nurk, Portland had the worst defensive rating since the break among the West playoff teams. Nurkic’s absence on the defensive glass is only going to challenge them further. Enes Kanter will help replacing some of Nurkic’s minutes and rebounds, but if his first 16 games in Portland are any indication, the Blazers are simply a bad team when Kanter is in the game.

In his 299 minutes of play, Portland has a net rating of minus-5.8. Kanter is an infamous liability on D, and Portland’s defensive rating rises from 106.7 to 110.7 when he’s out there. It’s hard to see Portland getting enough stops against the good West teams without Nurkic in the rotation.

This follows similar concerns from national writers about the state of the Blazers’ lineup following Nurkic’s injury.