In very sad news for basketball fans everyone, including myself a fan of the Bosnian Beast, the Portland Trail Blazers’ hands have been forced. They have to sit out their emerging star center Jusuf Nurkic for at least the rest of the regular season. Why? Because he sustained an injury against the Houston Rockets which resulted in a broken bone in his right leg. And again, that really sucks. (Jazz fans know what it’s like to lose starters right before the playoffs, which is what happened almost every year after 2007.)
The Blazers PR had this to say:
An MRI shows Jusuf Nurkic has a non-displaced right leg fibular fracture. Will be sidelined for 2 weeks, will be reevaluated.— Trail Blazers PR (@TrailBlazersPR) April 1, 2017
And our bros over at Blazers Edge are covering this situation superbly:
According to them, and the eye-ball test, the injury happened here:
And they add:
Nurkic sustained the injury in a collision during the Trail Blazers’ 117-107 victory over the Houston Rockets on Thursday night. Nurkic has averaged 15 points, 10 rebounds, and 2 blocks per game for the Blazers since the team acquired him on February 13th in a trade with the Denver Nuggets. The Blazers are 14-6 in games with Nurkic in the lineup.
Curiously enough, this is the same injury that Steve Nash suffered after a collision with Damian Lillard in 2012. He suffered that injury on October 31st. His first game back was December 22nd. He missed 24 games, but was also nearly two decades older than Nurkic is now, at that time.
Check out their full post on the subject here.
Portland is currently trying to stave off the Denver Nuggets for the last playoff spot in the West. It’s going to be hard for Denver to catch them, but this does open the door a little bit.
The Nuggets lost tonight. Portland has a 2-game lead on them, plus the tiebreak, with 7 games remaining.— Blazer's Edge (@blazersedge) April 1, 2017
But no Jusuf Nurkic.
From the post I did on how the West will stack up we get this info:
Denver is on the road a whole lot and playing teams that want to win (Miami Heat, Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City x2, and potentially New Orleans x2 as they don’t own their 1st round lotto pick). That may sink them before they even get a chance to make a dent into Portland’s 2 games + tiebreaker lead.
That sucks for them.
But it doesn’t suck for at least ONE Northwest division team, our Utah Jazz. The Jazz play the Blazers twice. And re-purposing the info from my earlier post on the MIN/POR make-up game we see that Portland is in a jam.
Portland was already going to be tired when playing the Jazz:
- April 4th game in Utah is the second night of a back to back and third game in four nights
- April 8th game in Portland is just off the heels of three games in four nights
But it’s not just fatigue or rest or whatever. Utah has more space between games, while Portland should be playing easier foes. Of course, Portland gets Utah right after the Minnesota Timberwolves each time.
Right now the Wolves are still trying to win games (currently on a two game win streak), and Tom Thibodeau is playing Karl-Anthony Towns and Gorgui Dieng both over 40 minutes each night. Is this going to continue into the next week of basketball? Maybe.
If it does it is great because Towns will be softening up the Blazers’ bigmen for Utah on both occasions. Or maybe I should say Blazers’ “Bigman.”
Yeah, that’s right. Portland was already in a world of hurt. Big name free agent signing from last summer, Festus Ezeli, is out for the rest of the year. And so is bruising big Ed Davis. Adding Nurkic to the list of wounded leaves only Meyers Leonard in the paint to go up against Rudy Gobert.
Yes, they will probably have to go small for much of the game, but they were already doing that with Al-Farouq Aminu at PF. Noah Vonleh will have to really step it up. But we’ve seen what under-sized front courts that can only go one-big at a time manage against Rudy Gobert.
On paper a tired Portland team, riddled with injures inside, and just softened up by Karl-Anthony Towns, should fall easily to the Jazz.
Of course, on the court is where Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum live. Utah has had trouble with guards, but sweeping the Washington Wizards (John Wall and Bradley Beal) should give our defenders some more confidence. I do expect the refs to give Portland some sympathy though because of this injury.
I used to hope that Denver would knock Portland into the lotto, so Portland would be resting / tanking at this point in the season. Playing them without three of their best bigmen will just have to do instead.
These aren’t sure wins, it’s never a sure win against a hot shooting, athletic, young point guard who can score from anywhere. (See: Jazz record against Oklahoma City Thunder, Boston Celtics, and Toronto Raptors this season . . . 1-7) But without Nurk, a Beast averaging 15 / 10 / 3 / 1 / 2 since the trade, it gets a little easier.
If Portland is tired, and hurt, and weary, it may really work in the Jazz’ favor. And right now on paper it looks like they will be. And now those three middle games (#PORatUTA #MINatUTA #UTAatPOR), when factoring in the result of #WASatUTA looks like it could be a 50 season.
Get well Jusuf. You are a bright young star and it is really bad timing that you are hurt now. But while you are out, Utah really needs to win these games more than you guys do.