Blazers Lose Game To Pacers, Nurkic To Injury

by Casey Holdahl
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PORTLAND -- If only one game was all the Trail Blazers lost Thursday night.

As if falling 111-87 to the Indiana Pacers in the second game of a back-to-back wasn’t bad enough, the Trail Blazers also lost Jusuf Nurkic to a broken right wrist suffered in the third quarter of Thursday night’s contest at the Moda Center.

“Obviously it’s very disappointing for (Nurkic) and for us,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “He had a long road back from his other injury, he had a rough start of the season, looked like he was getting back on track. Obviously this is a big setback both for him and for us.”

The Trail Blazers are now 7-5 overall and 3-3 at home this season. The loss breaks a four-game winning four-game winning streak for Portland.

The story of how the Trail Blazers lost Thursday’s game is easily told. After being tied 26-26 after the firsts quarter, the Trail Blazers were outscored 33-10 in the second quarter. After rallying twice Wednesday night to eventually defeat the Kings in Sacramento, the Trail Blazers didn’t have the legs to pull off a similar feat against a Pacers team that is far more talented than the team they encountered the night before.

“We shot 4-for-19, 0-for-8 from three, had eight turnovers,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “Everybody who played in that quarter was a double digit minus (in plus/minus) except for Rodney (Hood), they scored 24 points in the paint. It was a bad quarter by everybody, the bench. Start of the second quarter didn’t start off well and it didn’t end well.”

But things would actually go from bad to much worse with Nurkic breaking his right wrist early in the third quarter. On replay, it looks as though the injury occurred when Nurkic swiped at the ball on a Malcom Brogdan drive near the 8:45 mark of the third quarter. He immediately grabbed his right wrist but still managed to contest a shot attempt, which sent the center to the ground as the Blazers went the other way in transition. The Pacers would call timeout after the Blazers scored, with Nurkic going straight to the locker room with the team medical staff.

Tests would show a break, putting Nurkic’s season and the Trail Blazers’ hopes of a top seed in the Western Conference in jeopardy, especially with Zach Collins also sideline due to ankle surgery.

“He’s our starting center, we ask him to do a lot of things,” said Damian Lillard of Nurkic. “He plays a major part in our team and our success. So obviously you’re not going to have one person come in and just turn into Nurk, but it has to be by committee. And in the past we’ve always been able to count on guys to come in and fill those holes collectively. That’s what we’re gonna be looking at now.”

With Nurkic’s injury, the Trail Blazers are now down to Enes Kanter, who started for the Trail Blazers during their run to the Western Conference Finals back in 2019, and Harry Giles as their only healthy centers.

“I’m going to sit down with (president of basketball operations) Neil (Olshey) tomorrow and we’ll talk about what options we have,” said Stotts.

While no injury is ever welcomed, Nurkic suffering another serious injury roughly six months after returning from a compound fracture in his left leg, an injury sustained in March of 2019, feels especially cruel. Factor in losing his grandmother to COVID-19 while the Trail Blazers were in the Orlando bubble and other unspecified personal issues he’s been dealing with this season and one comes away feeling especially disappointed for the fun-loving Bosnian.

“We’ve got to give him his space,” said Lillard, a close friend of Nurkic. “I know having suffered an injury or two in my career that sometimes you just want to have some space to yourself and you want the people, even the ones closest to you, to respect that space. Obviously I’m sure he’ll want to hear from the people that care about him, but not just smothering him. So I think we’ve got to show our love for him but also give him his space because it’s hard to deal with. The game that we love to play and something that’s a part of our lives every day is taken away abruptly.

We always going to be here for him, we’re always going to show our support for him but we’ve got to give him his space and let him take that in.”

As for the game, both Lillard and CJ McCollum finished the game with 22 points. Carmelo Anthony was their only other double digit scorer with 10 points.

Five Pacers scored in double figured led by 25 points from Brogdon. Domantas Sabonis had a double-double with 23 points and 15 rebounds.

Next up, the Trail Blazers host the the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday in the second game of a seven-game homestand. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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