The Trail Blazers have a golden opportunity to get back on track in wake of consecutive blowout losses, hosting the bottom-dwelling Detroit Pistons on Saturday night. Unfortunately, any momentum Portland is able to muster against Detroit will come without Jusuf Nurkic.
The Blazers announced on Thursday that Nurkic will miss Saturday's game due to "injury management" of his right knee. It's the second time in three games he's sitting out to rest his knee. Nurkic also was sidelined for Tuesday's game against the LA Clippers with "right knee inflammation."
Though there's been no official word from the team, the reason for Nurkic's absence indicates he's likely to play against the Miami Heat on Sunday in the second leg of the Blazers' back-to-back. The Heat, of course, are a more threatening opponent than the Pistons, especially considering Jerami Grant – who dropped 30 points on 11-of-19 shooting against Portland two weeks ago – is slated to sit out Saturday's game.
The devastating injury that caused Nurkic to miss almost all of last season, it bears mentioning, was to his left leg. About two months before then, on January 30, 2019, Nurkic sat out against the Utah Jazz with right knee soreness, but returned for Portland's next game.
The genesis of this current injury is unknown publicly.
Nurkic played 22 minutes in the Blazers' loss to the Utah Jazz on Thursday, finishing with 10 points, six rebounds and four assists. Though still not at his peak after missing 10 weeks with a wrist injury, Nurkic was immensely impactful against the Jazz, especially on defense, offering rim-protection and backline communication none of his teammates could match.
Nurkic returned to the lineup on March 26 against the Orlando Magic. He's averaging 8.7 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.2 assists in six appearances since coming back, modest numbers deflated by playing under a minutes restriction.
The Blazers and Pistons tipoff at 7:00 p.m. (PST). Portland enters the game as 11.5-point favorites.