A lengthy slide appeared possible for the Portland Trail Blazers without LaMarcus Aldridge, but the power forward's dramatic return has them feeling confident heading out on the road.
Aldridge will play his second game since overriding the team's announcement that he'd be out for an extended period when Portland tries to deal the Brooklyn Nets a seventh straight home defeat Monday night.
After being diagnosed with a radial collateral ligament tear in his left thumb, Aldridge seemed resigned to undergoing surgery, and Blazers released a statement Thursday that said he'd be sidelined for at least six weeks.
Portland lost for the fifth time in six games that night against visiting Boston and has gone 3-3 without Aldridge, one of three players in the NBA averaging at least 23 points and 10 rebounds.
The Blazers (32-13) were already missing Robin Lopez due to a broken right hand when they lost fellow starter Nicolas Batum for at least a week after he aggravated a right wrist injury against the Celtics.
Portland, though, announced a reversal Saturday after Aldridge decided that he would postpone surgery.
"My idea now is to play the rest of the season," the three-time All-Star said. "But if it gets too much where I can't handle it or I'm not playing at a very good level then I'll stop. But hopefully it goes well for us."
Aldridge hardly looked like an injured player against Washington on Saturday, finishing with 26 points and nine rebounds in a 103-96 home win that ended a two-game losing streak. He wore a brace on his thumb and didn't seem to be limited.
"I'm not into the rah-rah story," Aldridge said. "I just wanted to come back and play. I wanted to test it out at home, and versus these guys because I felt they were a physical team, and if I could play against these guys then that would be good."
The Blazers should be in better position to avoid a fourth straight road loss as they open a four-game trip that includes matchups with Cleveland and Atlanta. Aldridge has averaged 25.5 points and 59.1 percent shooting in his last four games against the Nets, though he missed a 97-87 home win in the first meeting of the season Nov. 15.
Damian Lillard had 28 points and 10 assists while going 4 of 6 from 3-point range in that contest. He'll be facing a Brooklyn team that allowed opponents to make 24 of 54 from beyond the arc while losing its last two by a combined 74 points.
The Nets (18-26) wrapped up a 1-2 western trip with Saturday's 108-73 loss to Utah. They've particularly struggled at the offensive end during their home skid, averaging 89.7 points and 23.5 percent shooting from 3-point range.
Brooklyn went 1 for 19 from behind the arc while dropping its third straight meeting with Portland in November.
Brook Lopez scored 21, Joe Johnson added 20 and Deron Williams had 19 in that game, but Johnson totaled 15 points and Lopez 10 in the blowout defeats to the Los Angeles Clippers and Jazz.
Williams could miss a 10th straight game with a rib injury.
"Collectively, we need to put more into the game effort-wise," forward Mason Plumlee said. "It's not really a strategic thing anymore, we just need to give more."