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There’s no other way to say it, other than Jusuf Nurkic saved the Portland Trail Blazers season, and now some surprise injury news to the Bosnian 7-footer may cost them their playoff positioning.
One night after Nurkic posted 19 points and 11 rebounds in a statement win against the Houston Rockets, the Blazers announced he has “a non-displaced right leg fibular fracture” and will miss the rest of the regular season. He played 32 minutes and finished out the game on Thursday night.
It appears Nurkic suffered the injury battling Nene Hilario for a rebound with three minutes left in what was still a two-point game against the Rockets on Tuesday. Blazer’s Edge uncovered the video:
Since the Blazers traded Mason Plumlee to the Denver Nuggets for Nurkic and a first-round pick on Feb. 13 — a trade deemed a steal from the get-go — the 22-year-old has averaged 15.2 points, 10.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists, two blocks and 1.2 steals in 29.2 minutes per game upon arriving in Portland.
The Blazers are 14-5 since inserting him into the starting lineup, posting the league’s third-best record since the All-Star break and improving from 10th place to the eighth seed at 37-38.That span included a 33-point, 16-rebound, three-block effort in a 122-113 win over his former team that strengthened Portland’s playoff standing on Tuesday, after which Nurkic wished the Nuggets a “happy summer.”
Now, Portland — two games ahead of Denver for the Wester Conference’s final playoff spot with seven games to play — must face the final two weeks of the season without its starting center. Portland has a slightly easier schedule down the stretch, even with two games against the Utah Jazz and another against the San Antonio Spurs remaining. Despite another triple-double from Nikola Jokic, Denver lost to the Charlotte Hornets on Friday night, and now must face the Miami Heat, New Orleans Pelicans (twice), Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder (twice) over the last seven games.
If the Blazers can hold on to the playoff spot they’re currently controlling, there’s a chance Nurkic could return for the playoffs. The team said he would be reevaluated in two weeks, just before the start of the first round. Unfortunately, banking on a leg fracture to a 7-footer is never a safe bet.
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