Short-handed Blazers look to bounce back vs. Hawks
The Portland Trail Blazers will again be without their main man in the middle when they host the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday night.
Jusuf Nurkic is sidelined indefinitely after fracturing his right wrist Thursday in Portland's loss to the Indiana Pacers. The 7-footer sustained the injury when he swiped at the ball as Indiana's Malcolm Brogdon drove toward the hoop.
The injury setback saddened players and coaches alike due to how valiantly Nurkic battled back from a badly broken left leg that occurred in March 2019.
"Obviously it's very disappointing for (Nurkic) and for us," Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. "He had a long road back from his other injury, he had a rough start of the season, looked like he was getting back on track. Obviously this is a big setback both for him and for us."
Enes Kanter is slated to move into the starting lineup against the Hawks, and Stotts said the franchise would investigate bringing in another center.
Star guard Damian Lillard indicated the club will be supportive of Nurkic as he faces his latest challenge.
That said, the Trail Blazers can't dwell too long on their disappointment.
"(Nurkic) is our starting center, we ask him to do a lot of things," Lillard said. "He plays a major part in our team and our success. So obviously you're not going to have one person come in and just turn into Nurk, but it has to be by committee.
"And in the past we've always been able to count on guys to come in and fill those holes collectively. That's what we're gonna be looking at now."
Portland doesn't know if it will have big man Zach Collins at all this season after he underwent ankle surgery in late December. Seldom-used Harry Giles III is the only other healthy center.
Losing Nurkic was far from the lone issue as the Trail Blazers were pounded 111-87 by the visiting Pacers, a result that ended Portland's four-game winning streak.
Portland scored just 10 second-quarter points and trailed by 23 at halftime. Overall, the Trail Blazers shot just 36.8 percent from the field -- including 13 of 43 (30.2 percent) from 3-point range -- and committed 18 turnovers.
Lillard and CJ McCollum scored 22 points apiece to pace Portland.
The game against the Hawks is the second of a seven-game homestand for the Trail Blazers.
Atlanta has dropped five of its past six games after being trounced 116-92 by the Utah Jazz on Friday in Salt Lake City.
Star guard Trae Young had a highly forgettable outing as he scored a season-low four points on 1-of-11 shooting.
"They denied him the entire game as much as they could," Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce said of Utah's tactics defending Young. "They challenged him to work and probably frustrated him. ... It's part of that growth. Every guy has to go to through it when you're an elite scorer."
It marked the second time in the past four games that Young was held to single digits. He failed to make a 3-pointer in three of the four contests, going 3 of 17 from long range in that span.
Cam Reddish led the Hawks with 20 points and made 4 of 5 3-point attempts. He has scored 20 or more in two of the past three games.
"Shots were falling," Pierce said of Reddish. "That was good to see. He got some rhythm shots, he hit a wide-open 3 in transition. Most of his shots were in control and in transition ... I thought he took what was there and was effective doing so."
Atlanta made just 5 of 28 (17.9 percent) from 3-point range against the Jazz but was able to remain in the game until Utah went on a 21-0 second-half burst to open up a 29-point advantage.
"I don't think we met the challenge (against Utah)," Pierce said. "We need to come out and meet the challenge (on Saturday)."
--Field Level Media
Updated January 16, 2021