The Western Conference is tough. If you go on a losing streak you can go from 3rd to 6th. The Portland Trail Blazers are in 3rd place in the Western Conference. They are on a two game losing streak and they have lost LaMarcus Aldridge to a thumb injury.
According to ESPN, Aldridge is expected to miss six to eight weeks after tearing the radial collateral ligament in his left thumb. Six to eight weeks is a long time at this time of year.
Aldridge is averaging 23.2 ppg and 10.2 rpg this season. He is one of three players in the league averaging at least 20 points and 10 rebounds this season. Aldridge is 10th in the league in double-doubles.
The Blazers are already without starting center Robin Lopez and backup center Joel Freeland. Starting small forward Nicolas Batum left Thursday night’s game after he aggravated a wrist injury.
Injuries can derail any season. The Blazers will have to rely on Damian Lillard and Wesley Matthews going forward. They are 5-5 in their last 10 games. They have dropped five of their last six games. The Clippers, Mavericks and Rockets are right behind the Blazers in the standings.
Lillard has been struggling with his shot recently, especially from beyond the arc. He is 4-15 in his last two games from beyond the arc without Aldridge. With Aldridge out Lillard will be forced to take more shots. He won’t give the same open looks without Aldridge.
Aldridge keeps teams honest on a pick & roll or a pick & pop. He is a very good mid-range shooter. Running a pick & pop with Chris Kaman will not have the same affect for the Blazers or Lillard. Teams will now cheat off Kaman and try to get the ball out of Lillard’s hands.
Portland is at the bottom of the league in terms of points in the paint at 36.7 per game. They average 103 points per game. Without Aldridge both numbers will drop. They will only have two players averaging double figures and they are both jump shooters. Aldridge loves to shoot jumpers but you could also throw the ball to him in the post.
After a home game against the Wizards on Saturday night the Blazers will go on a four game road trip. Six of their next nine games will be on the road. It will be very tough going forward for the Blazers.
The Clippers, Mavericks, Suns and Thunder are all on winning streaks and could pass the Blazers soon enough. Portland could be out of the playoff picture by February with all these injuries.