Just two days before what would have been his first preseason game in the NBA, CJ McCollum broke the fifth metatarsal bone in his left foot during Saturday’s practice at the team’s facility in Tualatin. It is the same bone that sidelined McCollum for all but 12 games during his senior season at Lehigh.
McCollum was injured after setting a pick on Wesley Matthews sometime during Saturday’s practice. Matthews collided with McCollum while trying to fight through the screen, sending McCollum to the floor. The 6-4 rookie left practice to get x-rays, which showed that he had once again broken the his left fifth metatarsal. McCollum broke the same bone on January 5, 2013 in a game against Virginia Commonwealth. The injury would cause him to miss the remainder of Lehigh’s 2012-13 season.
No date has yet been set for surgery or his return to the court. The timeline for his rehabilitation will be made after he undergoes surgery to repair the bone.
Coincidentally, Damian Lillard broke the same bone, albeit in his right foot, during his third season at Weber State.
McCollum had been drawing positive reviews from his coaches and teammates through the first week of training camp and was expected to compete with Mo Williams, Will Barton, Earl Watson and Allen Crabbe for minutes at both backup guard spots. He was also excited to play in front of Trail Blazers fans for the first time at the Wells Fargo Fan Fest on Sunday.
“That will be a good opportunity to get some scrimmaging in in front of an audience, kind of put on a show for the fans,” said McCollum on Friday. “It’ll be good for us to interact with the fans as well.”
That show, at least from McCollum, will have to wait until after his foot heals.
When the Western Conference first round series between the Trail Blazers and Clippers started, many assumed it would be a quick affair, with the Clippers eventually moving on to face the Golden State Warriors in the second round. And after Warriors point guard Stephen Curry suffered a knee injury that will keep the reigning MVP sidelined for the start of the second round, much of the conversation revolved around how that would improve the Clippers’ chances of beating the defending champs in the Western Conference semifinals. The fact that the Clippers still had to beat the Trail Blazers two more times didn’t seem to make much of a difference.
A few days later, that narrative has flipped. Leading the series 3-2 with a chance to clinch in Game Six tonight at the Moda Center (tipoff scheduled for 7:30 pm on KGW, ESPN and 620 AM), the Trail Blazers are now Golden State’s presumptive opponent, as injuries to Chris Paul and Blake Griffin have all but ended the Clippers’ playoff run.
But just as the Clippers still had to win four games to advance, so too do the Trail Blazers, which is a good reminder that there are no such thing as inevitability when it comes to sports. “That’s why the play the game,” might be trite, but it’s still as true as it ever was, something the Trail Blazers know as well as any team still alive in the postseason.
“We just go out there and play, we don’t really pay attention to what’s being said,” said CJ McCollum. “You can’t read into that too much. First we were supposed to get swept, first we were just happy to win a game, so you just go play. You don’t really worry about the other stuff, you just control what you can control, keep your mindset the same, understand that nothing is inevitable. You’ve got to go out there and play.”
Though the Trail Blazers were able to beat the Clippers 108-98 at Staples Center in Game Five sans Paul and Blake, a team led by JJ Redick, DeAndre Jordan and Austin Rivers still managed to take a five-point lead into the half and had the game tied at 71-71 going into the fourth quarter, so it’s not as if any team, including Portland, can just roll the ball out in a playoff game and expect to emerge with the victory. After all, if that were the case, the Clippers would already be in Oakland preparing for the Western Conference semifinals.
“We understand that they’re a good team,” said McCollum “Regardless of what’s happened, regardless of what injuries they’ve gone through, they’re still a good team and we’ve still got to go play the game.”
After struggling in the first few games of their first round playoff series, the play of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum in Games Three, Four and Five has been one of the main reasons the Trail Blazers hold a 3-2 advantage versus the Clippers. Mason Plumlee has arguably been Portland’s most valuable player, and both Al-Farouq Aminu and Maurice Harkless have delivered game-changing performances at times during the series, but the attention Lillard and McCollum draw from the Clippers’ defense has allowed for their teammates to have a chance to shine in the postseason. And despite L.A.’s defensive gameplan focusing almost exclusively on stopping Portland’s starting backcourt, Lillard and McCollum are combining to average just over 40 points a game during the 2016 playoffs.
Given that, and the fact that they even made the playoffs, let alone are a game away from winning Portland’s second playoff series in the last 15 years, TNT analyst Charles Barkley declared on last night’s edition of “Inside The NBA” that Portland’s backcourt is second only to Golden State’s, the team the Trail Blazers would face should they advance to the next round.
LOS ANGELES — It took a while, but the Trail Blazers we’ve seen in the last two games in Portland finally showed up in Los Angeles Tuesday night, and not a minute too soon.
After failing to exert their will on an undermanned opponent playing without both Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, the Trail Blazers outscored the Clippers by 10 in the fourth quarter to come away with a 109-98 victory in Game Five at the Staples Center. The Trail Blazers now lead the best-of-seven series 3-2 with a chance to clinch a spot in the Western Conference semifinals with a win in Game Six back in Portland.
“We knew we would have to win here eventually to win the series and we got it done tonight,” said Maurice Harkless. “Hopefully we can keep this momentum going and get a win on Friday back home.”
Portland has won the last three games versus the Clippers, with Wednesday night’s victory being their first road playoff win since 2014.
As has been the case throughout the series, neither team was capable of finding easy offense early in the game. Neither team managed to shoot better than 35 percent from the field and both turned the ball over four times. The Trail Blazers were able to get to the line for 10 free throws in the first quarter, but made just five of those, starting a trend of poor foul line shooting that would continue for most of the game.
Both teams would improve in the second, though the Clippers would get the upper hand by scoring 20 points in the paint on the way to shooting 54 percent from the field in the quarter. Harkless and Gerald Henderson would combine to score 15 points in the quarter to keep Portland in the game, but even their best efforts couldn’t stop the Clippers from taking a 50-45 lead into the intermission.
“We had to play harder,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “First half, especially the second quarter, the Clippers played harder than we did. They got baskets in transition, they got offensive rebounds, they got kick-outs, extra possessions and they played harder than we did in the second quarter.”
Portland’s fortunes changed in the second half. They shot 48 percent from the field, thanks in large part to CJ McCollum going 4-of-5 from the field for 10 points in the quarter, and played with more connected on the defensive end, as evidenced by holding the Clippers scoreless for nearly the first six minutes of the first half. The combination helped Portland grind down what looking like an increasingly fatigued L.A. team to tie the game at 71-71 going into the fourth.
Then it was Damian Lillard’s time to shine. After shooting 1-of-10 from the field in the first three quarters, the point guard in his fourth season out of Weber State hit his first shot, a three-pointer, to start the fourth quarter and proceeded to go 6-of-10 from the field and 4-of-6 from three for 16 fourth-quarter points.
“All my teammates throughout the game, they just kept saying, ‘Keep shooting, stay with it, stay aggressive, keep your mind right,'” said Lillard. “I would have been doing that all along, but it felt good to have that encouragement and that support, especially with them trapping so high out. I had to trust the right play, hitting the guy in the middle and allowing him to make the next play to the weak side. I just had to be patient.”
With Lillard’s help, the Trail Blazers were able put together a 15-3 run early in the fourth to take a 13-point lead with 7:48 to play in regulation. A few minutes later, an 11-2 run would push Portland’s lead to 17, their largest of the night, before coasting to the 10-point victory.
The Trail Blazers were led by McCollum, who went 9-of-18 from the field to finish with 27 points, four assists and four rebounds in 39 minutes. Harkless went 7-of-14 from the field to finish with a double-double of 19 points and 10 rebounds.
“I knew I had to be aggressive,” said Harkless. “It was tough for guys to get going in the beginning and I saw opportunities to attack and was open a few times, so I took advantage.”
Mason Plumlee, arguably Portland’s most valuable player thus far in the playoffs, also put up a double-double of 10 points and 15 rebounds to go with four assists. Lillard finished with 22 points, five assists and three steals in 39 minutes.
The Clippers had six players score in double figures led by 19 points on 7-of-17 shooting for JJ Redick. DeAndre Jordan finished with 16 points and 17 rebounds in 31 minutes.
The series now once again shifts back to Portland for Game Six at the Moda Center. A win would give the Trail Blazers the series and a second round date with the Golden State Warriors, while a loss would force a Game Seven back at Staples Center.
“We want to close the series out,” said McCollum. “We’ve got a unique opportunity here to play an elimination game at home, and we want to make sure we take full advantage of it.”