The NBA All-Star Weekend has come and gone, with some players getting some much-needed rest and relaxation during what was surely one of the most memorable All-Star weekends in recent history.
But by Thursday it’ll be back to the real world, a world where the Portland Trail Blazers continue to fight for an eighth seed after suffering critical losses to the New Orleans Pelicans and Memphis Grizzlies along with Damian Lillard being out for a week or two with a groin strain. With all of this in mind, here’s where the Blazers rank in the NBA.
ESPN’s Royce Young dropped Portland one spot to 16th, lamenting the bad luck of the Blazers and citing the brutal losses to New Orleans and Memphis.
Just when it looked like this frustrating season was finally starting to turn, with the Blazers getting healthier as Damian Lillard found a supernova gear, Lillard pulled his groin in the last game before the All-Star break. The margin for error is razor thin for No. 9 seed Portland, currently four games back of the West’s final playoff spot. Any time without Lillard could be devastating as the Blazers try to close the gap on the No. 8 Grizzlies.
Zach Harper of The Athletic has the Blazers 19th, writing that Portland’s hopes of making the playoffs are hurt drastically by losses to other fringe playoff teams and Lillard’s groin issue.
What are you playing for? 8th seed and a possible nightmare scenario in the first-round. This goal for the Portland Trail Blazers became a lot murkier right before the All-Star break when Damian Lillard suffered a groin injury. Thankfully, it doesn’t appear to be too serious, although missing games could effectively sink the Blazers and their hopes of making the playoffs. They’re four games behind Memphis and have to win their next two meetings against the Grizzlies in order to secure the tiebreaker. This team struggled to win when Lillard was playing like a superhero this season. Expecting them to rally without him (however many games that is) seems irrational at best. But if the injury proves to just be a minor hiccup for them, they’re still within striking distance. Also, nobody wants to face Dame in a playoff series.
Why this ranking? They lost to the two teams (New Orleans and Memphis) this week that they absolutely can’t lose to in this playoff push. On top of that, they may not have Lillard for a couple of games thanks to that groin injury. Dropping them a few spots until we have clarity on Dame’s injury status seems like the most logical action for the Blazers this week.
Grant Hughes of Bleacher Report has the Blazers 17th, saying Portland is in trouble with Lillard out no matter how long he’s out for.
The Blazers have lost three of their last four games and, more importantly, saw Damian Lillard go down with a groin strain in Wednesday’s 111-104 loss to Memphis.
We’ve spent the majority of these Blazers rankings sections lauding Lillard for his outlandish scoring and deep shooting, so it follows that his absence, projected at one to two weeks, hurts Portland’s ranking.
Worse, it may kill its playoff chances.
The Blazers’ net rating dips by a nice, round 10.0 points per 100 possessions when Lillard sits down, dropping from plus-0.9 to a wretched minus-9.1.
Portland is in trouble.
Finally, CBS Sports’ Collin Ward-Henniger dropped Portland to 17th, writing that they’ll want Lillard back sooner rather than later.
The Blazers lost both games this week, including an important one to the Grizzlies to fall further behind in the race for the No. 8 seed out West. On top of that, Damian Lillard left Wednesday’s loss to Memphis with a groin injury. Obviously Lillard is essential to Portland’s success, so let’s hope he has a speedy recovery.
In short, losing Damian Lillard = bad. Portland’s first game back will be a critical one against the Pelicans on Friday. Tip-off is at 7:30 p.m. PT.