Lillard (Right Hamstring Strain) Out For Friday's Game Versus Nuggets

by Casey Holdahl
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The Portland Trail Blazers haven’t won a game at the Moda Center in well over a month, an auspicious streak they’re hoping to end when they host the Denver Nuggets Friday night (tipoff scheduled for 7 p.m. on NBC Sports Northwest and Rip City Radio 620 AM).

But if they’re to get off their home schneid before Christmas, they’ll have to do so without their best player, as Trail Blazers starting point guard Damian Lillard has been ruled out for Friday’s game with a right hamstring strain.

Lillard suffered the injury around the seven minute mark of the third quarter of Wednesday night’s 93-91 loss to the Spurs at the Moda Center. While driving down the lane, Lillard was kneed in the right leg by Pau Gasol, almost immediately prompting the guard to grab at the back his right hamstring.

“Gasol got switched onto me somehow," said Lillard describing the injury. "I got around him and he ran into the back of me. I felt his knee ram right into the back of my knee and he ran into me hard."

After subbing out at the next dead ball, Lillard received treatment from the team medical staff and rode a stationary bike in an effort to keep the hamstring loose before heading back to the locker room for additional treatment.

Lillard reentered the game at the 10:04 mark of the fourth quarter and almost immediately made a three-pointer, giving the impression that perhaps the injury wasn’t all that serious. But Lillard’s effectiveness waned rather quickly thereafter, so much so that the 6-3 guard out of Weber State said he could hardly maneuver around the court on Portland’s last possession, though he stayed on the court in hopes of serving as a diversion.

“I couldn't move," said Lillard after Wednesday's loss. "I just wanted to be out there. My guy never left me. That was one thing they didn’t do, so I felt like that would give us at least a little more space out there. I don’t think they knew exactly how bad my leg was hurt or whatever, so I mean, it is what it is. Like I said, if I could move, I’m sure you guys know I would have been a lot more aggressive and I would have been a lot more hands-on with the end of that game but I did what I could.”

Now it will be on Lillard's teammates to do what they can to get a win without him Friday night versus the Nuggets. What's more, while his status for Saturday's game versus the Lakers in Los Angeles is still to be determined, it's hard to imagine he'd miss Friday's game due to a strained hamstring and then play on Saturday, especially with four days off before their next game on December 28 versus the 76ers.

After playing all 82 games in his first three season, Lillard has missed seven games in each of the last two seasons. Most recently, he sat out five games between December 26, 2016 and January 4, 2017 due to a left ankle sprain, with Portland going 2-3 during that stretch.

With Lillard out, Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts will likely look to Shabazz Napier or Pat Connaughton to start alongside CJ McCollum in the backcourt.

If Lillard is out for an extended period, it's also possible that the team recalls guard Wade Baldwin IV, signed as one of Portland's two-way players earlier this season, from the Texas Legends of the G-League, where he has averaged 15.3 points, 4.7 assists and 4.3 rebounds in three games as he returns from surgery on his right thumb.