PORTLAND, Ore. — Time is running out on the Portland Trail Blazers if they want to rally to make the playoffs. Portland is three games behind the eighth-place Memphis Grizzlies with 23 games to play.
Something that would help boost the Blazers in their playoff pursuit would be the return of injured stars Damian Lillard and Jusuf Nurkic.
Jason Quick of The Athletic reported Tuesday night that Lillard is expected to "miss a couple more games" as he continues to recover from a groin strain.
"Health is the first priority. That's pretty easy. Dame knows his body. I don't think we would put him out there if we didn't feel he was healthy. His health is the first priority, regardless," Blazers head coach Terry Stotts said before Tuesday's game.
Multiple reports Tuesday night indicated Lillard would travel with the team on its upcoming three-game road trip to Indiana, Atlanta and Orlando, but the Trail Blazers' Casey Holdahl reported Wednesday morning that Lillard will not be with the team for the first two games of the road trip.
"There's a chance he could meet up with the team in Orlando, but there was little to no chance he was going to play versus the Pacers nor Hawks regardless," Holdahl tweeted.
Jusuf Nurkic will travel with the team on the upcoming road trip, according to Stotts, but the coach said that's not necessarily an indication of anything. As pointed out by The Oregonian's Jamie Goldberg, Nurkic "has also traveled on multiple recent road trips."
There's still no timetable for Nurkic's return, at least one that the Blazers will share with the public.
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The Blazers have lost two of their past three games, all without Lillard. They haven't lost ground in the playoff race, in fact they've gained a game, because the Grizzlies have lost all three games since the All-Star break. But the teams behind Portland have played well, tightening up the race behind the Grizzlies.
Since the break, the Pelicans are 2-1, the Spurs are 1-1, the Kings are 3-0 and the Suns are 2-1. The Blazers and those four teams are bunched within 1.5 games of each other and any of them could rally to make the playoffs with a late surge.
Here are the playoff odds for the final playoff spot in the West:
- Pelicans 34.9%
- Grizzlies 23.2%
- Blazers 17.9%
- Spurs 15.8%
- Kings 6.0%
- Suns 2.2%
- Pelicans 66%
- Blazers 17%
- Grizzlies 6%
- Kings 5%
- Spurs 4%
- Suns 2%
Here's a look at the remaining strength of schedule for each team, according to Tankathon, from easiest to hardest:
- 2. Pelicans, 24 games left, .445 opponent winning percentage
- 5. Blazers, 23 games left, .462 opponent winning percentage
- 6. Spurs, 26 games left, .478 opponent winning percentage
- 11. Kings, 25 games left, .492 opponent winning percentage
- 21. Suns, 24 games left, .513 opponent winning percentage
- 30. Grizzlies, 25 games left, .554 opponent winning percentage