Trail Blazers Clinch Playoffs But Lose Nurkic To Injury

by Casey Holdahl
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PORTLAND -- The Portland Trail Blazers secured their sixth consecutive playoff berth with a 148-144 victory versus the Nets in double overtime Monday night in front of a sellout crowd of 20,188 at the Moda Center. 

The Trail Blazers are now 46-27 overall, 29-9 at home and have swept the season series with the Nets 2-0. Portland finishes a four-game homestand, their last of the season, with a 4-0 record and have now won seven of their last eight. The Trail Blazers are four games back from the Western Conference-leading Warriors but trail the Rockets for third by just a half game. 

But despite the win and securing a postseason berth, Monday’s game was not a joyous occasion, as Trail Blazers starting center Jusuf Nurkic suffered a serious injury to his left leg in the second overtime. Nurkic had to be taken off the court on a stretcher, and all signs indicate the 7-0 Bosnian broke at least one bone in his left leg. 

Head coach Terry Stotts said that Nurkic, who was having one of his best game of the season with 32 points, 16 rebounds, five assists, four blocks and two steals before suffering the gruesome injury, was taken to an area hospital, but had no other update other than to say he seeing the center go down in such a fashion was “devastating.”

While the Blazers were able to regroup to come away with the four-point victory, after the game, many of Portland’s players were visibly shaken in the locker room. All were at a loss for words. 

“It’s tough,” said Enes Kanter. “Seeing one of your brothers go down like that, I just don’t know what to say. But tonight I’m just going to go home and just pray for him because this is way bigger than basketball.”

Damian Lillard, Nurkic’s best friend on the team, noted what kind of a person he off the court after seeing his season come to an end in the late stages of Monday’s win. 

“That’s my little big brother,” said Lillard. “We talk every day, text, Facetime. I can get on him in a way that I probably can’t get on nobody else because of our relationship. I hate to see that happen. The other day after practice, Nurk just came to my house to see my son, you know what I’m saying? Just like, no reason at all. You at home, he want to come by and just see the baby, so I think that says what our relationship is.”

To make matters worse, Stotts announced prior to Monday’s game that CJ McCollum, who has missed the last four games with a muscle strain in his left leg, will not travel with the team on their upcoming four-game road trip. 

“I think our emotions will feel the same as far as us feeling for Nurk, just feeling back for something like that to happen,” said Lillard. “We don’t want to see that happen to one of our guys. It’s just tough but as far as on the floor, we’ve got to move forward and continue to try to get the job done. I think that’s all we can do at this point. We don’t have time to feel bad for ourselves and stuff like that. We’ve got to get tougher.”

Next up, the Trail Blazers head out for a four-game trip starting Wednesday night versus the Bulls in Chicago. Tipoff is scheduled for 5 p.m. 

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