Portland Trail Blazers guard Arron Afflalo is expected to miss one to two weeks after suffering a right shoulder strain during Thursday's loss to the Golden State Warriors, the Blazers announced Friday.
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Afflalo appeared to suffer the injury midway through the fourth quarter, with Portland trailing by five:
Afflalo worked to establish position on the block against Warriors guard Stephen Curry, looking to go to work against the smaller point man with the low-post game that Afflalo has honed into one of his primary offensive weapons over the years. As he held the ball, Golden State power forward Draymond Green slid across the baseline toward Afflalo; sensing the coming double-team, Afflalo kicked the ball back out so that Portland could swing it to the weak side and try to find a more advantageous means of attacking the Warriors' stout defense.
After he passed it, though, he instantly began favoring his right arm, slumping over and holding his right shoulder. He kept working, tracking back on defense for one possession, but after Curry splashed through a jumper, Afflalo signaled to coach Terry Stotts on the Blazers' bench to call a timeout so that he could exit the game and visit with the training staff. Afflalo exited at the 4:35 mark of the fourth quarter and would not return, finishing his night with eght points on 4-for-6 shooting to go with one rebound and one steal in 27 minutes.
Soon after his exit, TNT sideline reporter Lewis Johnson reported that Afflalo told him he "tore something" on the back of his shoulder. The eight-year vet tried to tough it out after the game, but could only hide the injury so much, according to Joe Freeman of the Oregonian:
He downplayed the injury, saying he was "not really worried" about its long-term impact, but he sure seemed to be in pain Thursday in the visiting locker room at Oracle Arena.
Afflalo dressed gingerly, struggling to slip on his shirt over his right arm, and he said his arm was so tender and sore he couldn't lift it in the air above his shoulder to mimic a shooting motion.
"I can't really lift my arm at the moment," he said. "We'll see. Maybe it'll feel better [Friday]. I'm not even quite sure what's wrong. We'll see."
Instead of Afflalo feeling fit and ready to resume active duty, though, he becomes the third Blazers wing in the last five weeks, joining starting shooting guard Wesley Matthews (out for the season with a torn Achilles tendon) and reserve forward Dorell Wright (out another three to five weeks after breaking his left hand) on the sideline.
The Blazers acquired Afflalo from the Denver Nuggets at the February trade deadline with designs on adding 3-point shooting, defensive versatility, depth, experience and a proven commodity on the wing to their bench, which has been a sore spot for the past couple of seasons. He was soon thrust into a larger role by Matthews' injury, though, serving as a somewhat uneven replacement.
Afflalo has come through on the floor spacing, making just under 41 percent of his 3-pointers as a starter in Portland, and the Blazers have scored at a scorching clip — 110.4 points per 100 possessions, which would rank No. 1 in the NBA over the course of the full season — with Afflalo on the floor. But a Blazers' defense that ranked third in the NBA in points allowed per possession prior to Matthews' injury has cratered since, giving up 106.8 points-per-100, 10th worst in the league since March 6.
Portland's preferred starting five (Matthews, Damian Lillard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Robin Lopez and Nicolas Batum) outscored opponents by 10.7 points-per-100 this season, which would be the second-best "net rating" in the league this year, behind only the historically dominant Warriors. The other four starters plus Afflalo, however, has been outscored by 3.5 points-per-100, a bottom-10 mark that would slot between the Brooklyn Nets and Denver Nuggets' full-season marks, and virtually the entire difference has come on the defensive end.
Some of that is due to Afflalo's lack of familiarity with the other Blazers' starters — you can't just replace the kind of continuity that Matthews had built up with those guys as starters over the past few years — and some of it is due to, well, Matthews being a better defensive player than Afflalo. But while Portland might not have worked flawlessly with Afflalo in the mix, his absence will still take one more quality healthy veteran out of the mix for a team that can ill afford more injuries, more uncertainty and a shorter bench as it prepares, in all likelihood, to open up the playoffs on the road.
If Afflalo comes back on the early end of his timeline, he'll likely miss the Blazers' final three regular-season games, but could be available for the playoffs. The full two weeks, though, would compromise his availability for an opening-round series that figures to be tough enough sledding as it is, with the likes of the Memphis Grizzlies, Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Clippers and San Antonio Spurs all looming as potential opponents.
With Afflalo sidelined, Stotts will likely turn to second-year guards C.J. McCollum — who has begun to come on of late, especially on the offensive end — and Allen Crabbe to take on the bulk of his duties down the stretch.
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