Playoffs 2017: West First Round -- Warriors (1) vs. Blazers (8)
Portland Trail Blazers get center Jusuf Nurkic back in lineup
ANNE M. PETERSON | The Associated Press
PORTLAND, Ore. — Jusuf Nurkic will start for the Portland Trail Blazers in Game 3 of their playoff series against the Golden State Warriors on Saturday night.
Nurkic missed the final seven games of the regular season and the first two playoff games at Golden State because of a nondisplaced fracture in his right leg.
There has been speculation the 7-foot center, known as the Bosnian Beast, could return for the playoffs because he has been shooting around in warmups.
The Trail Blazers announced that Nurkic would start on Saturday night a little more than an hour before the game.
“I definitely wanted to play,” Nuckic said. “I wanted to give it a shot. I wanted to try.”
Nurkic said it was his decision. Blazers coach Terry Stotts said Nurkic would start but his minutes would be restricted.
The Warriors hold a 2-0 advantage in the series. Golden State was without coach Steve Kerr (illness) and star Kevin Durant (strained left calf) for Game 3.
Nurkic, traded to Portland on Feb. 12 from the Denver Nuggets, was averaging 15.2 points, 10.4 rebounds and 1.9 blocks in 20 regular-season games with the Blazers.
He is credited with helping Portland’s post-All-Star break surge, when the team went 18-8 and finished at .500. With the big man in the starting lineup, Portland was 14-5.
The absence of Nurkic has hurt the Blazers in the playoffs, giving Portland fewer weapons against Warriors starting center Zaza Pachulia and primary backup David West.
Nurkic became the first Trail Blazer to average 15-plus points and 10-plus rebounds in his first 20 games with the team since Mychal Thompson in 1978.