It was announced coming out of the NBA All-Star break that Portland Trail Blazers star forward LaMarcus Aldridge had suffered a groin strain and would be out for approximately a week recovering from the injury. Not having their All-Star forward and arguably their biggest offensive option would likely test the Blazers out of All-Star Weekend.
Their first two games out of the break were a mixed-bag in terms of results as they dropped a close one against an banged-up San Antonio Spurs team and topped the up-and-down Utah Jazz two days after that. However, they showed positive signs in their third game without Aldridge on Sunday night against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The Wolves jumped out to a big early lead in the first half, but a strong effort in the final two quarters, particularly offensively, anchored the Blazers on their way to a 108-97 win. While Minnesota’s fourth quarter debacles continued and certainly didn’t hurt Portland, the Blazers helped themselves a great deal with their exploitation of the Timberwolves’ perimeter defense. Essentially, the Trail Blazers were firing and knocking down threes like clockwork.
Portland finished the evening shooting 13-28 from long-range including a strong 5-8 effort from distance out of the hands of point guard Damian Lillard. Even more impressive is the fact that the starting five for the Blazers combined to shoot 12-22 from long-range on the evening, proving to be the lifeblood for Portland once again.
As I’ve said on numerous occasions, one of the things that makes this Trail Blazers team so special and so dangerous this year is the fact that they have a multitude of weapons that can bolster their offense on any given night. On Sunday night, they were all on display and stepped up without their All-Star power forward in the lineup and got a needed victory to try and stay the course over the last two months of the season.
In terms of Aldridge, recent reports have said that he could miss more than the originally projected week with his groin injury as he and the team are proceeding with caution. That’s a wise move for both parties as the Blazers will need a fully healthy Aldridge going into the postseason. If that means him taking a bit more than a week to ensure that happening, the Blazers proved on Sunday that they can survive as he recovers.