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McCollum starts in return from 10-game absence

Portland Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum started against the Denver Nuggets on Sunday after missing the past 10 games to recover from a left knee strain. He finished with nine points, six rebounds and six assists, shooting 3-of-13 (1-for-5 on 3-pointers) in 25 minutes.

After the game, McCollum told reporters he is feeling pain-free in his knee, writes Joe Freeman of The Oregonian.

“If there was any pain, I wouldn’t have played,” McCollum said, per the newspaper. “I haven’t had any pain in a long time.

“I felt like I was moving pretty well, I felt like my conditioning was in pretty good shape and I just tried to play the game. I was pretty free-flowing with my movement. I felt pretty comfortable … and just tried to play a normal game.”

Getting McCollum back before the playoffs begin will do nothing if not help solidify Portland’s player rotation. That aspect of the team had been in a bit of transition in the aftermath of McCollum’s injury as well as a season-ending injury to starting center Jusuf Nurkic.

“That’s what’s really important — figuring out the rotation so we won’t be going in (to the playoffs) kind of shocked,” Evan Turner said. “He did well, we won the game and that was big-time.”

Said All-Star guard Damian Lillard: “To get him back and the way we played when he was out, a lot of guys had to step up and do a little bit more. I think the fact that it went well, it gave a lot of guys more confidence. It gave us other guys we can turn to when we do get to the postseason.”

McCollum told reporters that he and the team have not decided if he will play in the Blazers’ final two games (which are Tuesday vs. the Los Angeles Lakers and Wednesday vs. the Sacramento Kings). He remains hopeful his minutes restriction will be lifted before the 2019 postseason begins.

McCollum said he and the team have not decided if he will play in both of the Blazers’ final two games. Either way, McCollum is hopeful his minute’s restriction will be lifted in the postseason. Blazers coach Terry Stotts said before the game that McCollum’s minutes would restricted.