Nurkić (Ankle) Out, Harkless (Quad) Questionable Versus Rockets

by Casey Holdahl
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The Portland Trail Blazers will look to end a three-game home losing streak when they host the Houston Rockets, currently in first place in the Western Conference standings, Saturday night at the Moda Center. But if they’re to end their longest losing streak of the season thus far, they’ll have to do so without at least one of their starters.

The team announced Friday that center Jusuf Nurkić would miss Saturday night’s game with a sprained right ankle, an injury he sustained in Portland’s 106-92 loss to the Wizards Tuesday night at the Moda Center. What’s more, forward Maurice Harkless is listed as questionable with a quad contusion, also suffered in Tuesday’s loss.

“Well, the starting lineup will change,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “We'll play the same way, we'll prepare the same way as if either of those guys were playing. We're playing Houston and we've got to have a game plan. However the minutes are distributed, got to make the most of them.”

Nurkić has started all 24 of Portland’s game this season, averaging 15.1 points on 45 percent shooting, 7.8 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.3 blocks in 28.0 minutes. The 7-0 center in his fourth season out of Bosnian and Herzegovina injured his ankle midway through the fourth quarter of Tuesday’s loss to the Wizards and did not return once he subbed out. With three days off after the loss, the hope was that Nurkić would have enough time to heal before Saturday’s contest, though that would not be the case.

“It'll be different not having (Nurkić) out there but like I always say, the next guy has to step up,” said Damian Lillard. “Usually when a guys goes down, the team comes with more energy to try and rally around that situation, so hopefully we have that.”

Between Noah Vonleh, Ed Davis, Meyers Leonard, Caleb Swanigan and Zach Collins, Stotts has a number of options for replacing Nurkić in the starting lineup. Whoever gets the call will have the task of matchup up against Rockets center Clint Capela, who is averaging a double-double of 13.2 points on 66 percent shooting and 11.2 rebounds in 23 games this season.

“I've been ready,” said Davis, who has seen his minutes decrease in the last three games. “I get my conditioning in, even the games where I'm not playing my usual minutes. I'm a professional, this is my eighth year, so it's nothing new. I'm ready for the challenge.”

As for Harkless, he sustained his injury in the first quarter of Tuesday’s loss after falling to the floor while defending Wizards forward Otto Porter. The 6-9 forward, who has started 18 games this season, including in Tuesday’s loss, is averaging 5.2 points on 41 percent shooting from the field and 26 percent shooting from three, 3.2 rebounds and 0.9 steals this season. If Harkless is unable to go, Pat Connaughton, Al-Farouq Aminu, Evan Turner and Jake Layman will likely be responsible for picking up the majority of his minutes.

Saturday’s game can be seen locally on NBC Sports NW with Kevin Calabro, Lamar Hurd and Brooke Olzendam. Brian Wheeler and Michael Holton will have the radio call on Rip City Radio 620 AM.