UPDATE: LaMarcus Aldridge underwent an MRI on his left knee Thursday in Los Angeles, which came back negative for damage. He will not play Friday night versus the Clippers.
The Trail Blazers took part in a light practice at the Lakers’ facility in El Segundo on Thursday as they prepare to play the Clippers Friday night at Staples Center (7:30 PM tipoff on NBA TV and 620 AM). Nevertheless, there are two noteworthy items, both pertaining to injuries, to come from Terry Stotts’ brief comments to media.
— First and foremost, LaMarcus Aldridge missed Thursday’s practice with soreness in his left knee and was being examined by doctors somewhere in the Los Angeles area.
According to Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com, Aldridge was “pulled” in the fourth quarter of Wednesday night’s victory against the Jazz, though he eventually rejoined the team on the bench.
LaMarcus Aldridge returns to the bench with both knees wrapped. He’s done for tonight.
— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) October 17, 2013
If you missed my Talkin Ball hit, LaMarcus Aldridge is ok. Says he went in early to get his knees iced, knowing he wouldn’t return to game.
— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) October 17, 2013
Stotts had no other details on the injury. Aldridge’s status for Friday’s game against the Clippers is unknown, though considering the caution the team has exercised with regard to injuries during preseason, it’s fair to assume he’ll only play if feeling 100 percent.
And for what it’s worth, Stotts said the starters and regular rotation players didn’t go through much activity aside from some light running and weight training anyway, so Aldridge likely wouldn’t have done much even if he had attended practice.
— The only regular-season starter who did go through practice was Nicolas Batum, who participated in four-on-four contact activity for the first time since suffering a concussion on October 8. Batum said after practice that he felt no lingering affects of the concussion that has kept him on the sidelines for all the first game of Portland’s preseason schedule. Batum still has to clear all of the NBA’s concussion protocols by a third-party doctor, but he’s optimistic he will be available for Friday’s game at Staples Center. If he is, Stotts said he would likely return to the starting lineup.
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.