A quiet day at the team’s facility in Tualatin with the Trail Blazers holding practice at home for the first time since leaving for a five-game road trip on March 6. Not too much to report other than Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts saying that LaMarcus Aldridge, who suffered a lower back contusion in the March 12 loss to the Spurs in San Antonio, will be out for Tuesday’s game against the Bucks at the Moda
Center. Stotts also said Aldridge will likely be questionable for the upcoming game on Thursday against the Wizards.
“We’d like to get him back as soon as he’s ready,” said Stotts, “but we want to make sure he’s ready to go. When he’s ready to play, he’ll play.”
The initial prognosis was that Aldridge would sit out the games against the Pelicans and Warriors, after which he would be re-evaluated. Aldridge only stopped using crutches Sunday and has not practiced since the injury, so news that he will miss his third-consecutive game and possibly another after that is not all that surprising.
“I landed on my right side on my back,” Aldridge said at the team’s shootaround in New Orleans last Friday. “When you walk, the back on your right side moves, so it was just painful. That’s why I’m not back walking yet because I have that contusion on the right side of my back, which makes it painful to walk.”
The Trail Blazers are 5-2 this season with Aldridge on the bench. He missed five games immediately following the All-Star break with a strained left groin. Dorell Wright has started in Aldridge’s place in those seven games and is averaging 8.9 points on 54 percent shooting from the field and 52 percent shooting from three, 4.4 rebounds and 1.7 assists as a starter.
Both the Trail Blazers and Warriors are getting good injury news just a few hours before Game Four of their Western Conference semifinal series starts later tonight at the Moda Center (tipoff scheduled for 7:30 pm on TNT and 620 AM).
On the home side, Trail Blazers starting forward Maurice Harkless is listed as probable for Game Four despite suffering a right hip contusion on Game Two. Harkless tried to play through the injury, starting in Portland’s Game Three victory on Saturday at the Moda Center. Though he started the game, the 6-9 forward was severely limited and would go on to play less than seven minutes in the win.
But after sitting out most of Game Three and resting on Sunday’s off day, Harkless said at Trail Blazers shootaround Monday morning that he was feeling better and optimistic about his chances of playing come Game Four.
“I tried not to do too much on the court but I did some running around, moving around, side to side stuff in the weight room,” said Harkless. “It felt pretty good so I’m going to try to do stuff on the court and participate in the whole shootaround, see how I feel.”
Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts wouldn’t give any indication as to whether Harkless would start Game Four if he is in fact able to play. It’s possible either Gerald Henderson or Allen Crabbe, who both saw significant minutes increases in Game Three with Harkless sidelined, could start in Harkless’ place even if he’s healthy enough to play Monday night.
“I’m going to try to go either way, but I don’t want to be a detriment to the team,” said Harkless. “Obviously if I can’t move well enough, I’m sure Coach will take me out.”
The situation with the Warriors and Stephen Curry, though improving, is not nearly as cut and dried. Curry, who has been sidelined since straining his right MCL on April 24, has been upgraded to questionable for Game Four, though his availability won’t be decided until later Monday afternoon.
“(Curry) went through shootaround and he felt pretty good,” said Warriors head coach Steve Kerr. “We’ll see, he’s going to get treatment again this afternoon.”
Kerr said it was possible Curry, the reigning MVP, could come off the bench even if he’s available to play in Game Four, as he’s only played 39 minutes in Golden State’s last eight games between his current MCL and an ankle injury in Game One that kept him out of most of the Warriors’ first round series versus the Rockets.
But regardless of if Curry plays, the Trail Blazers say their preparation or game plan doesn’t much change.
“We’ve played against them enough times to where we know how we will guard him,” said Damian Lillard. “Our approach is the same either way. Coverages change when different guys come into the game, so that wouldn’t be a tough adjustment. We would guard him different than we would guard Shaun Livingston, we would guard (Leandro) Barbosa different than we would guard Livingston. It changes anyway, so when he comes back, we’ll just make that adjustment when he’s in the game. When somebody goes in for him, we’ll go back to what we’ve been doing these first couple games.”
Despite being a heavy underdog, the Portland Trail Blazers evened their best-of-seven first round playoff series by winning Game Four versus a relatively healthy Los Angeles Clippers squad. The same could not be said of the team the Trail Blazers will face in Game Five Wednesday night at Staples Center.
The Clippers announced Tuesday afternoon that starting point guard Chris Paul would be out for at least the next four weeks after undergoing surgery to repair a fractured third metacarpal in his right hand, an injury he suffered in the third quarter of Portland’s 98-84 victory in Game Four. Paul, a nine-time All-Star and arguably the best point guard in the NBA, averaged 23.8 points on 49 percent shooting, 7.3 assists, 4.0 assists and 2.3 steals while playing stellar defense on Portland’s guards in the first four games of the series.
“My job as a coach is to figure out a way of getting us up and ready for Game Five,” said Clippers coach Doc Rivers. “There’s nobody, probably in the league, that’s going to replace Chris Paul so there’s nobody clearly on our team that’s going to do it. As a group everybody pitches in.”
While the Clippers stopped short of listing Paul out for the entire playoffs, saying instead that he would be reevaluated in four to six weeks, that timeline assures the 6-3 veteran point guard out of Wake Forest will miss the rest of the series versus Portland.
To make matters worse for Rivers, it was also announced that Blake Griffin would miss the rest of the postseason with a left quad injury that has dogged the All-Star power forward for much of the season. Griffin also suffered his injury in the third quarter of Game Four.
“I could feel it,” said Griffin after Game Four. “Hopefully in the next 24-48 hours you turn a corner and feel better, so I’m not really concentrated on how it felt tonight, that’s kind of expected after you tweak something.”
Griffin had an MRI on his left quad Tuesday, which showed no new damage, but the aggravation was evidently serious enough to sideline the five-time All-Star. He played in just 35 games this season due to dealing with a partially torn left quad and a broken hand. Griffin averaged 15.0 points on 38 percent shooting, 8.8 rebounds and 4.0 assists in 31.8 minutes during the 2016 postseason.
Rivers will likely look to some combination of Jamal Crawford, Austin Rivers and Pablo Prigioni to fill in for Paul, while Jeff Green, who started 10 games for the Clippers after being traded midseason from the Grizzlies, while likely pick up Blake’s minutes. Rivers and Green are listed as probable starters in place of Paul and Griffin, respectively, according to the newest version of L.A.’s game notes.
“We’re going home, all they’ve done is win two games at home just like we won two games at home,” said Rivers. “We’ve been in adverse situations all year with guys out but guys have come through and I expect us to do that at our place.”
And we’re back. Less than 12 hours after the Trail Blazers defeated the Clippers at the Moda Center in Game Four to knot the first round series at two games apiece, Joe Freeman, he of The Oregonian/OregonLive.com, and I, Casey Holdahl of ForwardCenter.net/TrailBlazers.com, hit the studio for the second time in 24 hours to record another edition of the Rip City Report, hot off the mp3 presses…
On this edition, we discuss Portland’s win in Game Four, the monumental shift in the series due to Chris Paul breaking a bone in his right hand, other Clippers injuries and how they affect the series going forward, Portland seizing momentum and whether or not they’re now the favorites, the slump-busting performances of Al-Farouq Aminu and Allen Crabbe, Terry Stotts finishing second in Coach of the Year voting and answer your Twitter questions regarding adjustments, reporting taboos, the “Rip City” jerseys and whether CP3’s alternate egos are prepared to step in. It really is a new day.