Blazers limp into playoff series against the Grizzlies
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) The Trail Blazers limp into their first-round playoff series against the Memphis Grizzlies on a four-game losing streak, as injuries finally appeared to catch up with the Northwest Division champions.
Now the question is whether those woes will extend into the postseason.
CJ McCollum, who had been thrust into the starting lineup following Wesley Matthews' season-ending Achilles injury and Arron Afflalo's shoulder injury, also missed the Dallas game with a sprained left ankle.
Aldridge came back for the finale after missing two games with a sore left foot and Portland ended the regular season 51-31. The Blazers wound up with the higher seed because of the division title, but the Grizzlies had a better record (55-27) for home-court advantage.
''Anytime you go on a losing streak, people are going to have negative things to say. People are going to say, `Oh, they're hurt. They don't have everybody. They're not 100 percent,''' said Lillard, one of the few on Portland's roster to escape injury. ''We're professionals. Everybody is on this team for a reason. We're going to have to depend on guys to step up. We have complete faith in the guys on this team.''
The Grizzlies, headed to the playoffs for the fifth straight season, are struggling with injuries too. They've played four straight without starting point guard Mike Conley, who had a sprained right foot, while guard Tony Allen has missed nine straight with a left hamstring strain.
After staying healthy for the majority of last season, the Blazers were first hit in December when Lopez broke a bone in his right hand and sat out 23 games. Portland was able to turn to backup Chris Kaman, an offseason acquisition, in the interim.
About the time that Lopez returned, Aldridge tore a ligament in his left thumb. Portland's All-Star forward originally planned to have surgery that would keep him out of the lineup for up to eight weeks, but two days later decided he could manage the pain and play out the rest of the season.
The biggest blow to the Blazers came in early March when Matthews' Achilles tendon ruptured during a home game against the Mavericks. Matthews was averaging 15.9 points and 3.7 rebounds, but the injury meant so much more to the Blazers than just points because of his passionate presence on the court and in the locker room.
Portland had acquired Afflalo at the trade deadline from the Denver Nuggets and was able to push him into Matthews' role. Afflalo started 19 of 25 games following the trade, averaging 10.6 points, but then he was sidelined by a strained right shoulder.
He probably won't be healed until the playoff series with the Grizzlies returns to Portland next week.
Earlier this month, Blazers reserve forward Dorell Wright broke a bone in his left hand. He wasn't expected to be available in the first round.
Batum and McCollum were both injured in the team's second-to-last game at Oklahoma City, a game Aldridge missed because of a sore left foot.
Aldridge said he believes all of the injuries have toughened up the Blazers overall.
''I thought we fought through a lot of adversity this year as far as injuries and guys going down,'' Aldridge said. ''I thought guys stepped up so, I think, overall, it was good for us.''
It was a different story last season, when the team was mostly healthy and won 54 games, most since the 2008-09 season. Portland advanced to the second round of the playoffs for the first time in 14 seasons.